01/11/10 12:56 PM EST
Scouts see Chapman as rare package
Electric arm, athletic frame outweigh control concerns
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
One of the more difficult things in scouting Chapman was that, with his pitching in Cuba, there wasn't exactly a long scouting history to go on. Before seeing him throw in a workout in Houston in mid-December -- the Reds were one of the teams in attendance -- several scouts went looking for what little video there was of Chapman in game action, so they'd have something to compare to.
Past reports have been of Chapman hitting triple-digits on the mound. The lefty who will turn 22 in February -- and those who question the veracity of that number might be assured by reports from scouts who feel he does indeed look that young -- didn't throw that hard in his Houston workout.
It's not like he was soft-tossing, though. Chapman threw in the low-to-mid 90s, touching 97 mph. The fastball, though, people knew was there. What impressed many was his slider. At the workout, he showed an above-average slider and there's a chance it will be a plus offering for him.
He's got a very athletic build and what appears to be a durable body. That, with the electric arm, is exactly what scouts dream of with young, projectable pitchers.
There are two main knocks against Chapman. One was his lack of a solid third pitch. He showed a changeup in the Houston workout and it had some action, but he didn't have a very good feel for it. He wasn't able to throw it where he wanted to. The lack of a third pitch led some to withhold judgment about Chapman's ability to be a starter. Some said they'd have to see him in game situations to truly know.
That leads to his second potential weakness. Chapman has had command issues in the past when pitching in game situations. He has had trouble commanding the strike zone and has tended to be a high-ball pitcher. In his Houston workout, however, his command was better than many expected. He kept the ball down in the zone and was able to locate his fastball to both sides of the plate. He wasn't overthrowing and showed a good Major League strike zone. He was more under control, which allowed him to repeat his delivery better, resulting in better command.
Of course, this was just in a workout, and the possibility remains that the adrenaline from game competition is one of the big factors in causing the command issues.
This criticism, of course, is nitpicking. That is what scouts do. Even those who saw those weaknesses agree that Chapman is a unique talent, one without a good Major Leaguer to compare him to.
Why would any team give Chapman $30 million? The answer is simple and comes from the overall reaction from scouts who have seen him: He is the type of pitcher -- considering the stuff, the size and the age -- who doesn't come around very often.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.