2013 Reds

Aroldis Chapman and Starting Pitching Depth

The signing of Jonathan Broxton to, presumably, close out games for the Reds has massive implications. Most notably, it puts Aroldis Chapman in the rotation and Mike Leake on the bubble. Seemingly, this leaves the Reds with a surplus of starting pitching. Of course, last year, the Reds had borderline-historic health in the rotation last year (at least during the regular season).

Right now, the rotation probably looks like this: 1. Johnny Cueto, 2. Mat Latos, 3. Chapman, 4. Homer Bailey, 5. Bronson Arroyo, 6. Leake

There are caveats, though. Chapman has a history as a starter, but he still won’t be able to handle a full-starter load this year. Additionally, it’s unlikely the Reds will be lucky enough to have as healthy a rotation as they did last year. Across MLB, 231 pitchers made at least 5 starts. That averages out to 7.7 starters per team logging significant time in the rotation.

The Reds can probably be counted on to be healthier than average, but we should probably still assume that they’ll need at least 7 starters over the course of the year. There are, as best I can tell, four candidates for the 6th and 7th spots. They are:

Mike Leake
Todd Redmond
Tony Cingrani
Daniel Corcino

Mike Leake you know about. If the Reds are thinking of trading from their “surplus” Leake is the most attractive in terms of immediate value. Of course, there are plenty of reasons to keep him. Trading Leake now would be selling low. He had an off year last year, and the advanced stats generally think he’s better than his ERA has shown so far. Additionally, he can hit and his Arroyo-like approach to pitching might make him ideally suited to the role of swing-man, where his primary role is long relief while stepping in to start when needed.

Todd Redmond is obviously the least valuable in a trade and there is nothing in his numbers to indicate he should have success at the major league level. He is likely the definition of a replacement player and shouldn’t be counted on to be anything than a #5-type starter (and I mean an average team’s #5, I’m not talking Arroyo/Bailey level).

Tony Cingrani has made himself into a high-level prospect and would be an attractive trade-chip, however, he also impressed us all in his call up last year. I think it would be really interesting to do some sort of tandem-starting arrangement with Chapman and Cingrani where each player throws 3-5 innings every five days. The Reds are unlikely to be that inventive, however. Additionally, there are still concerns over whether or not Cingrani has all the pitches he needs to succeed as a starter in the majors.

Daniel Corcino continued his progression through the system last year. But his falling strikeout-rate and climbing walk-rate have to be concerning. Corcino might be a good trade candidate if the Reds can find another organization that things highly of him and has a leadoff hitter to spare.

What you should all see here is that the Reds are not, perhaps, as deep as we might want to believe. Other than Leake, there are real concerns about whether or not any of these guys can contribute on the major league level and at least one of them will probably have to. The Reds should be cautious in their trade talks.

21 thoughts on “Aroldis Chapman and Starting Pitching Depth

    • Yeah i dont know if it’s just me, but none of the links look to be typed in correctly.

      I also see a problem with the link. And a reference to Mark Redmond when evaluating Todd Redmond.

  1. How about a Chapman/Leake plan. Start Chapman every fifth day and plan on pitching him four or (at most) five innings. Then, Leake can bridge to the bullpen. In between Chapman starts, leake can be available as the long man out of the pen. This would help to keep Chapman’s innings down and, if he proves a lights out starter, could potentially make him available for the postseason.

    • Also, a Chapman/Leake spot would also screw up any platoon advantage the opponent may try to gain.

      How about a Chapman/Leake plan.Start Chapman every fifth day and plan on pitching him four or (at most) five innings.Then, Leake can bridge to the bullpen.In between Chapman starts, leake can be available as the long man out of the pen.This would help to keep Chapman’s innings down and, if he proves a lights out starter, could potentially make him available for the postseason.

  2. I also like the Chapman/Leake platoon Drew Mac mentioned but I am afraid that is too ‘outside the box’ for Reds management. Heck they just gave a 3yr/$21mil contract to a closer because they couldn’t do without one after supposedly moving Chapman to the rotation.

    • Sorry for the initial problems on this post, guys. It was a result of blogging while parenting. I’m sure several of you can understand.

      I once poured milk on a sock. In the cereal bowl while talking on the phone. Until i tried to put the spoon in I was oblivious.

      Do you an idea of the value of HBailey on the trade market?

  3. I would put Bailey and Arroyo in front of Chapman just to keep his pitch count down. Plus, we don’t really know how his secondary pitches are going to work at the ML level, or the 2nd/3rd time through the opposing lineup. I’m happy with him as a starter, but I think we should temper our expectations this coming year and rely on those who proved themselves quite capable last year. I feel that while this move is the right one to make in the long run, it very possibly could weaken our staff next year. That, and the injury bug evening itself back out. Hopefully, a full year of Joey and another step forward for Bruce/Frazier/Cozart/Mez will be enough to offset any decline in pitching.

  4. In so many ways I really do not care about Chapman. Cueto’s 19 wins will push him to get to the next level and be even more consistent. Latos should be more comfortable and ready to kick ass for the full season- with his swing throughs he could be sick. Then of course there is Homer. What if he matches the second half of the season performance for the full year? How many wins we those three post next year? I gonna take 55 because I like that number Cueto for 20, Latos for 18, and Bailey for 17. With Arroyo’s 12-15 that’s impressive.
    If Chapman performs to expectations, holy crap. I would keep Leake due to the innings logged last year by the starters.

  5. @SFredsfan: I agree with you. At this point it is pie in the sky to project Chapman ahead of Bailey. Bailey had two outstanding runs punctuated by a couple of mediocre spells. That was done in the MLB in a pennant race. Chapman has never been through that grind before.

    Ironically when Bailey was about the same age as Chapman is now he was being similarly touted and projected. It has been a long and winding four year for Bailey to have (hopefully) arrived at the threshold of starting to actually deliver that sort of return.

  6. Just to add some more Bailey/ Chapman parallels.
    We don’t know what Bailey would have done had be been thrown into the fire as an MLB level closer at a tender age. At that point in time he was consistently throwing in the 98 MPH range as I recall. So, if he could have located reasonably and maintained a good strikes to balls ratio, he likely could have been successful at the least and perhaps even a sensation as a closer.

    The cautionary tale here is that to survive arm miseries and stand up to the rigors of starting Bailey change his delivery, robbing him of several MPH on his heater. That in turn forced him to somewhat reinvent himself which has taken several years to come to fruition. Who is to say Chapman will not face a similar process.

  7. Apparently the Angels are saying Jordan Walden is available. His value isn’t really high, but he mostly just fell out of favor in L.A.. I don’t know what the Angels want for him, but he’s still young and has a howitzer for an arm. I’d be interested to see if the Reds could swing a deal for him for some insurance. Maybe flip Henry Rodriguez for him?

  8. If Chapman starts, from what I see, our staff has some great potential to be even better next year. But, I also see them having the potential to not be as good next year. First, at closer, I do believe with anyone but Chapman we go downhill. Even though the save percentages may be the similar, with Coco, many of them were still circuses with Coco, where with just one more soft single, the save is gone. With Chapman, it was more along the lines of “slam the door shut”.

    Second, from the starter, I do believe Chapman has the potential to be a much better starter than Leake. But, also, from what I have seen and heard, Chapman is still unproven as a starter, where Leake is proven and only one season removed from being the top winner on this staff. Chapman can thrown 100 mph, yes. From what I saw, he stuggled with his slider a bit last season. Not much of a third pitch. And, even Pete Rose said that any major league hitter would be able to catch up to a 100 mph fastball. Given this, Chapman better have the pinpoint accuracy of Maddux as a starter if he’s coming in with just one pitch. He might get through the lineup once, even twice fine. But, the third time? Which pretty much was the scouting report from AAA when he tried to start down there a couple seasons ago. He could get through 4 innings fine, but from the 5th inning on was pretty much nothing.

    But, also, I don’t remember how he fielded much. If teams see a weakness with this, they are going to exploit it, a lot. I wasn’t impressed with how Chapman held runners as a closer at all. Now, maybe as the closer, runners on base weren’t his concern. But, as a starter, they will be. For, a runner with any kind of speed gets on first, they are going to be on third within 4 pitches, waiting for most any contact of the bat to score a run. How does Chapman bat? At least Leake could bat very well, especially for a pitcher, not an automatic out like many pitchers are.

    Finally, the health problems. Chapman has had shoulder problems each of the past 2 seasons so far. Granted, relieving is different than starting, that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be easy on the shoulder. Some were talking about closers getting injured recently. Starters aren’t free of injuries themselves in this case. If Chapman comes out with that 100 mph fastball almost exclusively as a starter, like he did as a closer, I could almost see the arm falling off before the end of the season. But, then, if he tones it down, in order to preserve the arm, he gives up some of what makes him such a special talent.

    In short, I believe Chapman does have a much bigger upside than Leake does. But, when each pitcher is down, or on their downsides, I believe Leake is a bit better than Chapman, simply from being a proven major league starter, experience trying to pitch out of holes at this level, experience pitching several innings in a row at this level, etc. Regardless of ST, I would start Chapman at AAA, give him about a month of starts down there, extending him beyond 5 innings, making sure of all roles beyond throwing the ball (include fielding, hitting, holding runners on, etc.). If successful, bring him up to start. If not, keep him at closer up here.

  9. There are currently 35 unsigned free agent starting pitchers with Major League experience. This does not include anyone who might find themselves without a job come tomorrow non-tender deadline. There are Jeff Francis type players available every year looking to find a chair when the music stops in February. In fact, Jeff Francis is available again this year. If you are concerned about depth, there are guys available. Cheap.

    Let us also not forget, LeCure and Simon came in to their respective camps last year listed as Starting Pitching. There is depth if needed. They also have, ugh, PedVal waiting at AAA.

    I think they should put Leake in AAA and have him on the same schedule as Chapman. Bring him up every 4 to 5 games to take a start and have Chapman come out of the bullpen for an inning those days to keep him sharp.

  10. I think it would be really interesting to do some sort of tandem-starting arrangement with Chapman and Cingrani where each player throws 3-5 innings every five days. The Reds are unlikely to be that inventive, however.

    I don’t think “inventive” is the term I’d use to describe using 2 roster spots for a single start every 5 games. Unless there’s something I’m not understanding about what you said.

  11. There are lots of risks and questions with the move of Chapman to the starting rotation.

    Subtracting Chapman from the bullpen weakens the closers role and leaves us a lefty short in the bullpen. We needed the closer, Broxton, signed to move him out, and now we need another lefty reliever to to keep Marshall company down there. Cingrani and Guillon are the only two other LH pitchers on the 40 man roster. I think Cingrani needs to stay in the rotation and Guillon is not close.

    Having Chapman in the rotation next season is basically saying we need 6 starters minimum for next year. Even if Chapman stays healthy and performs well, you can’t expect any more than about 18 GS from him next year. A 5 rotation over 162 games will get at least 32 GS each. So Chapman basically fills a half of a rotation slot next season. Thus Leake will be needed to fill the other gap. Below is Chapman’s yearly IP history. The basic rule of thumb is that you only increase a pitchers number of IP by 30 over the previous season. So 18 GS at 6 IP per start comes out to 108 IP, which is about 36 more than he threw last year. He’s never pitched more than 118 IP in a season ever, so expecting any more is very unrealistic.

    Chapman Career IP

    Cuba Age IP GS
    2006 18 54.0 15
    2007 19 81.1 12
    2008 20 74.0 16
    2009 21 118.1 20

    Min/MLB Age IP GS
    2010 22 109.0 13
    2011 23 63.0 3
    2012 24 71.2 0

    So now the big question is, how do the Reds plan to coordinate Chapman into the rotation. If he’s a big success, you definitely don’t want a Strasburg situation where he’s not available for the playoffs after being integral in getting us there. The only way he is in the opening day rotation and pitching in the playoffs is if they share a rotation spot between Chapman and Leake, either by skipping every other start, or have one of them start with the other coming on in relief and limit Chapman to 3-4 IP per start. Having Chapman sit the 1st half and entering the rotation in July for the remainder of the year is probably not an option. The other way would be to have Chapman remain the closer for the 1st four months, amassing about 50 IP, then start ramping him up in the rotation for the final 10 starts of the season for another 50+ innings. This is what I was hoping would happen last year when Broxton was acquired. I’m not sure what the best method is for Chapman, but you’d think the Reds would have an idea and some kind of plan already formulated for it.

    • The only way he is in the opening day rotation and pitching in the playoffs is if they share a rotation spot between Chapman and Leake, either by skipping every other start, or have one of them start with the other coming on in relief and limit Chapman to 3-4 IP per start.

      @Tom Diesman: Sounds great.

  12. Makes me wonder how Vida Blue ever pitched 310 innings at age 21 in basically his rookie year. While Chapman will be 25 at the start of next season and there is worry about 150-180 innings.

    Are teams now OVER-protective?

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