Secondary pitches will keep Chapman in big leagues – not 105 mph fastball

LOUISVILLE, KY - APRIL 16: Aroldis Chapman #51 of the Louisville Bats is pictured before the game against the Columbus Clippers at Louisville Slugger Field on April 16, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky. The game was cancelled due to bad weather (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

I love the Reds’ decision to call up Aroldis Chapman for the stretch run. Why not bring him up? First of all, the kid has posted a 2.40 ERA and 49 strikeouts in the minors over 30 innings after being converted into a reliever. Cincinnati also gave him a six-year, $30 million contract last winter so let’s see what he can do.

But while his fastball (which was reportedly clocked at 105 mph last Friday) has garnered the most attention, it will be his secondary pitches that will help the Reds now, and subsequently keep him in the big leagues for good.

It doesn’t matter how hard a pitcher throws – major league hitters are going to catch up at some point. If a hitter doesn’t have to worry about a player’s secondary pitches, then they’ll just sit dead red on the fastball and drive it into the gap.

That’s not to suggest that a fastball isn’t important because it is, of course. But when hitters have other pitches to worry about, then a 105 mph fastball may as well be 205 mph.

Chapman has two secondary pitches that make him lethal. The first is his slider, which runs 86-88 and is nearly unhittable when he can locate it. He needs to keep it down in the zone (like most pitches), but the movement often throws hitters off and leaves them unbalanced even when they do make contact.

The third weapon in his arsenal is a changeup, which still needs refining but it’s a plus pitch when thrown correctly. He needs to learn how to consistently throw it for strikes and not be so deliberate with his arm motion, but once he figures those two things out he’s going to be nasty.

Hopefully Chapman can handle the pressure of coming up in the middle of a pennant race, because he’s good for the game (all young players are good for the game, actually). And once he figures out how to command all of his pitches, he may become one of the best relievers in MLB down the road.

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