Since the “Cuban Missile” was signed for over $30M in 2010 his job description has been unclear. His reputation as a flame thrower precedes him everywhere he goes.
He came to Cincinnati with the plan of becoming a starting pitcher. With a full rotation he was used in relief, both long and short. His 12.8/9 strikeout rate is one of the best ever in baseball history.
As this off-season began many people thought that the brain trust would make a closer out of Chapman. But deals were made which soon saw his career as a closer disappear into thin air.
First setup specialist Sean Marshall was traded to the Reds for Travis Wood and Dave Sappelt. Just several days later, free agent closer Ryan Madson was signed, making the bullpen just a little too crowded.
After the Marshall deal, GM Walt Jocketty began making noises that Chapman would now become a starter. So now, where does that leave us?
The Reds now have six pitchers who will apparently be vying for entry into the five-man rotation.
The most effective starter for the Reds last season, Johnny Cueto will most likely start opening day. I would think he would then be followed by newly acquired Mat Latos. Then the picture loses focus and it isn’t as clear as it was.
Who goes third, Mike Leak or Bronson Arroyo? Before deciding on the order of the rotation, we should first address who we believe the last three of the rotation will be.
If Chapman is going to start, someone is going to have to sit, unless Dusty Baker would use a six-man rotation. I don’t think so.
Cueto and Latos are firmly planted as the new one-two punch. Four men will work to win three positions. Youngster Mike Leake, perennial work-horse Bronson Arroyo, injury-plagued Homer Bailey and now Chapman.
Since 2005 only Dan Haren and Derek Lowe have more starts than Arroyo. Even with health issues in 2011 (mononucleosis) he still managed to 32 games and pitch 199 innings. On the down side he surrendered a league-high 46 home runs last year. He was 9-12 with a 5.07 ERA, after averaging over 15 wins for the previous three years. Only seven pitchers in MLB had won more games during those three years.
Homer Bailey is only 25 but is on the DL frequent enough to make him seem 33. 2011 was Bailey’s fifth season in the big leagues and marked the first time he started more than 20 games. He was on the shelf twice last season and had his finest season thus far. He was 9-7 with an ERA of 4.43.
Mike Leake was the Reds first pick in 2009 and made the Reds rotation out of spring training without spending a day in the minors. His innings were limited in 2010 and had to be set down. Last season he 12-9 with a 3.86 ERA.
So, all things equal, or they will be on the opening of spring training at least. If every starter mentioned has a comparable spring training, who will be thrown out of the rotation? My money is on Bailey.
The Reds brought him up too early, but have been patient with him over the years. I don’t see him really excelling in the Queen City. At some point in another venue he may be a 20-game winner, but it will not happen here. Do you hear me?
Arroyo is uber dependable. When was his last day off? If he can layoff the gopher ball a little I think he will return to his 2008-2010 form.
Leake is just now revving it up. Great things are going to happen for the 24-year old.
If Chapman can have a spring with good control, he will be the number five starter, knocking Bailey down to a long-relief and spot starter role.