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01/11/10 3:00 PM EST

Reds' rotation may see Chapman soon

Club's pitching depth takes leap with scintillating southpaw

CINCINNATI -- Before the ink dried on Aroldis Chapman's six-year contract worth $30.25 million, he immediately became the Reds' top prospect and made an already optimistic future for their rotation appear even brighter.

Mark McGwire

Should Chapman reach the Majors in 2010, the Reds could have one of the youngest and toughest rotations for hitters to reckon with.

"When you look at the possibility of our pitching rotation for the next few years, including this year and beyond, with the makeup of our young players and position players, it's very exciting," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "I'm very excited about our future and what this signing helps to do to improve our situation going forward."

Chapman, who turns 22 in February, will be joined by two other younger arms in Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey. The Reds also have veteran back-to-back 15-game-winner Bronson Arroyo. Another veteran, Aaron Harang, won 32 games from 2006-07, but he struggled the past two seasons.

Cueto, who turns 24 next month, won 11 games in an up-and-down 2009 season. But after returning from right shoulder inflammation and the disabled list, he went 3-1 with a 3.63 ERA over his final six starts.

Bailey, 23, was once the top pitching prospect in the organization. After two years of rough outings and frequent round trips to Triple-A Louisville, he seemed to put it together in the second half of last season. Bailey was 6-1 with a 1.70 ERA over his final nine starts for the Reds.

And when he fully rehabilitates from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, Edinson Volquez, 26, is expected to be back sometime in the summer. Volquez was a 17-game winner and All-Star in his first season with the Reds in 2008.

The Reds also have more pitchers in their organizational pipeline. Lefty Travis Wood finished 13-5 with a 1.77 ERA in 27 starts combined with Double-A Carolina and Louisville in 2009. Another lefty, Matt Maloney, made his big league debut last season and showed some promise.

Last summer's top two picks in the First-Year Player Draft were also starting pitchers. Right-hander Mike Leake was taken eighth overall out of college and is on the fast track to the Majors. Brad Boxberger was taken with the club's first-round sandwich pick.

The depth of pitching talent will put the Reds in a position of strength, both on the field and when exploring trades. They will also have a chance to get leaner financially, since both Harang and Arroyo are entering the final guaranteed years on their contracts.

If the club declines both options on Harang and Arroyo, it would bring a savings of $23.75 million to the 2011 payroll.

It isn't known whether Chapman will be Major League ready come April. While still needing to develop secondary pitches, he is a rare power lefty who can reach 100 mph with his fastball.

While some clubs in the bidding process identified Chapman as a potential reliever, the Reds viewed him as a starter all along.

"We feel that's where his future is," Jocketty said. "We see him as potentially being a top-of-the-rotation starter at some point."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.