A flurry of signings and one major trade significantly changed the offseason landscape on Monday. Today, the international market could take shape as Aroldis Chapman is scheduled to throw a bullpen session for several teams, including the Yankees.
Chapman is the top international player on the market. He’s a 22-year-old lefty who has hit 102 mph with his fastball, and he could be in the big leagues sooner rather than later, but I’ve talked to one executive who feels Chapman is still too raw to pitch in the big leagues right away. His command isn’t where it needs to be, and when Chapman defected from Cuba, the ESPN.com article announcing the move called his secondary pitches “average” and said there are questions about his maturity.
All of that might explain today’s bullpen session. Chapman is so highly touted and has pitched in so many international events, scouts have seen him plenty of times. If he were a sure thing to pitch in the big leagues this year, he’d almost certainly be signed already. I’m not knocking the guy — he may very well be the top prospect in baseball by the middle of next year — but he might not be an instant game-changer.
Brian Cashman has said the Yankees do not consider Cashman a target for next year’s rotation. It doesn’t mean the Yankees aren’t interested, just means — if they get him — they’re more likely to start him in the minor leagues than push him instantly to New York. Pushing Kei Igawa into the major league rotation didn’t work out so well in 2007. Neither did pushing Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes into the big league rotation in 2008, when they had only 11 Triple-A starts between them.
Keep an eye on Chapman because he has a huge arm and a ton of potential, but don’t count on him as a guy who can impact next year’s big league rotation. At least not in April. He’d be a great addition to the system, but he might not change much about the Yankees’ current starting pitching situation.