Will Aroldis Chapman Help Your Fantasy Team This Year?

by Eno Sarris //

Continuing an ongoing series here, today we will look at another prospect from Baseball America’s midseason Top 25 list who may come up and impact your fantasy league.

Just this January, Aroldis Chapman agreed to a six-year, $30.25 million contract with the Reds, amid legendary tales of velocity and dominance from the Cuban leagues. Even while signing he was described as ‘raw,’ despite being 22 years old – or roughly the age of a guy a year out of college. The team talked of refining his delivery and not rushing him, but after a good spring training, they assigned him to Triple-A and the countdown began.

True to his age, Chapman was ready for the upper levels of the minor leagues, as his 11.01 K/9 attests. But true to his unrefined label, Chapman also has had his struggles, as his 4.9 BB/9 can attest. In some ways, he fits the statistical profile of Edinson Volquez, his future partner in the Reds’ rotation. He throws gas, is a little wild, and is not a groundball pitcher (41.5% at Triple-A right now), much like Volquez.

aroldis-chapman-1.jpgIt’s hard to see if Chapman will develop control. He had 365 strikeouts and 203 walks in 327 Cuban innings, a 5.6 BB/9 that was a harbinger of his current struggles. That sort of wildness will limit his upside for sure, but gas like he throws will allow him to persevere as well.

We might look to Brandon Morrow for a true comp.
Though he is a right-handed pitcher, Morrow posted a 4.3 BB/9 in the minor leagues, and owns a 5.14 BB/9 so far in the major leagues. It’s taken him until
this year to fully harness his arsenal (his 10.4 K/9 is helping) to the
point where he has gotten his FIP (3.28) under four for the first time. If Chapman can continue to whittle that walk rate down to the mid-fours like Morrow, he might be okay.

But there are myriad reasons to be skeptical. First, Chapman’s walk rate this year dwarfs even Morrow’s – and Morrow had a BB/9 closer to four at Triple-A before it skyrocketed in the major leagues. Second, only eight pitchers in baseball that have a BB/9 over four are currently qualifying for the ERA title. In other words, only eight pitchers have had enough stuff to overcome such a terrible walk rate to survive as full-time rotation members so far this year. The odds are stacked against Chapman becoming a dominating pitcher even now that he’s shown his strikeout ability in the States. 

Morrow is a prescient comparison because Chapman is currently a reliever, much like Morrow used to be while in Seattle. The Reds converted their big Cuban asset, at least temporarily, to relief, and he’s closing in Triple-A. It may have been a move to get him on the major league roster, and with Francisco Cordero currently struggling (4.47 FIP, 5.80 BB/9), it may even mean a fantasy-relevant role will come Chapman’s way when he’s called up as roster expand Sept. 1. (One piece of good news is that his control has been better in relief, with his walk rate down to 4.15 BB/9.)

Because of his still-existent control problems, however, fantasy owners in mixed leagues should wait for concrete news on the subject before moving. Deeper league managers looking for saves could speculate with Chapman. But you’d have to think that Nick Masset (3.77 FIP, 9.6 K/9, 4.07 BB/9) is the next man in line for saves in that bullpen, especially with the Reds in prime playoff contention.

It looks like fantasy owners may have to wait another year to benefit from Chapman’s booming fastball.

For more on Aroldis Chapman and other potential pitcher pickups, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

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