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Question of the day: Plot the future of Reds' reliever Aroldis Chapman?

September 2, 2010 | 12:44 pm

Ball_300 Reporters from around Tribune Co. tackle the question of the day, then you get a chance to chime in and tell them why they're wrong. Check back throughout the day for updates.

Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times

How good Aroldis Chapman will eventually become largely depends on how he is eventually used. The Reds say they’ll pitch the 22-year-old lefty in relief this fall but are projecting him as a starter. The Tampa Bay Rays had a great deal of success following the same formula with their own lefty phenom David Price, who just turned 25. Only two years removed from the bullpen, Price is an All-Star and one of baseball’s premier starters.

The history of Cuban defectors suggests another path, however. More than half of the Cuban players who have defected to the major leagues since 1991 have been pitchers. But of those with more than two big-league decisions, only five have winning records.

Cuban pitchers, used to dominating inferior hitters in their domestic league and in international play, have traditionally had trouble making the adjustments necessary to go through a major league lineup two or three times a game. Yet Chapman’s electric stuff -– his fastball was clocked at 105 mph in the minors -- is well suited to the bullpen. If he stays there, he could become one of the best closers in baseball. If he returns to the rotation, he could become another Jose Contreras – servicebable, but hardly a star.

Updated at 2:50 p.m.

Juan C. Rodriguez, Sun Sentinel
Plot the future of Reds’ reliever Aroldis Chapman? He of 22 years and two major league appearances? Let’s give the magic eight ball a shake … Will overtake Trevor Hoffman for the all-time saves title en route to Hall of Fame. Hmm. A bit optimistic.

Let’s try it again … Will receive wild acclaim until he feels a forearm twinge and ultimately lands on Dr. James Andrews’ operating table. A bit pessimistic. Maybe he’ll throw seven no-hitters like Nolan Ryan. Maybe he’ll end up homeless like J.R. Richard.

The point is it’s too early to plot anything with any degree of accuracy. Can’t-miss guys miss all the time. A chosen few are great from day one and enjoy unfettered careers. Where will Chapman fall? How about somewhere in between.

Photo: Aroldis Chapman. Credit: Al Behrman /Associated Press.