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Cuban Defector Chapman Likely to Sign Today

Some time today, a major signing will be announced.

Chapman is expected to get $15 - $20 million.

Chapman is expected to get $15 - $20 million.

Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman will sign with an MLB team–likely the Mets, Yankees, Marlins, or Athletics.

If you think the A’s don’t have a chance against the New Yorkers, think again.  The A’s were able to sign Dominican Michael Ynoa in 2008 and the 17-year-old Ynoa made his debut in the 2009 season in the minors.

Defection Opens Doors

Chapman defected from Cuba in July 2009 while in Rotterdam, The Netherlands for the World Port Tournament.  Chapman had only been in Holland for an hour when he told his roommate he was going outside for a smoke.  Instead of lighting up, Chapman jumped into a car owned by a friend and sped away from the hotel after Cuban officials neglected to collect his passport after landing at Rotterdam Airport.  When he jumped into that car, he left a mother, father, girlfriend, and baby daughter back in Cuba.

He wound up in Andorra, not the country you most often think of as a breeding ground for 100+ MPH pitchers.  But, there’s a reason, Chapman resides in the tiny country between Spain and France–it’s a tax haven.  And, that’s precisely why Chapman will likely sign somewhere on December 31, 2009.

Bonuses paid by American businesses to residents of other countries are not taxed.  And, with Andorra’s near zero tax rate, that’s going to save Chapman a bundle so long as he doesn’t pitch in America until 2010.  It’s a one-time tax bonus available only to international stars.

The Chapman Legend Begins

Chapmans lanky frame helps him hit 100+ on the radar gun.

Chapman's lanky frame helps him hit 100+ on the radar gun.

At age 19, Chapman opened eyes at the 2007 World Cup in Tapei.  In 15 innings, the young southpaw fanned 20.  He was a scout’s dream–6′ 4″, left-handed, and still with a tremendous upside.

In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Chapman dazzled scouts.  In his first game against Australia, in Mexico City, he tossed 16 pitches that registered 99 MPH and four that hit triple figures.  In his second game at Petco Park in San Diego, Chapman struggled with the disciplined Japanese hitters and was pulled after 2 1/3 innings.

Chapman’s Stats — A Walk in the Park

In his four seasons in the National Series, Cuba’s version of the MLB, Chapman had a 24-21 record with a 3.72 ERA.  In 341 2/3 innings, he fanned 379.  His achilles heal was his 210 walks, or 5.37 per 9 innings.

There’s no doubt that Chapman needs to improve his control to be a front line starter in the MLB.  More than five walks per 9 innings won’t help your fantasy baseball WHIP, that’s for sure.  And, the word is that the Cuban strike zone is more lenient than what you’ll find in the MLB or what Chapman found when he pitched at Petco against the Japanese squad.

“In Cuba, you knew you could throw a bad pitch and a batter would swing at it,” Chapman admits.  “In the big leagues, that doesn’t happen very often.”

Fantasy Baseball Preview — Aroldis Chapman

While there’s no doubt about Chapman’s heater, several executives in the MLB contend that his secondary pitches are not that good.  He throws a curve, slider, changeup, and forkball.

That may make one think that Chapman is better suited as a closer.  Chapman doesn’t want to go there.  “You pitch more frequently, but I don’t want to be a closer.”

Chapman has been called one of the three best young pitchers in the world who are not in the MLB.  The others include Stephen Strasburg and Yu Darvish who pitches for the Nippon Ham Fighters.  Strasburg will likely make his debut for the Nationals in 2010 and Darvish appears content to pitch in Japan.

Aroldis Chapman remains a long shot to make the MLB in 2010. He will likely toil in the high minors and attempt to improve his secondary pitches.  In deeper leagues, however, Chapman is a good addition if you are willing to wait and have a large minor league roster. It is unlikely that Chapman will see MLB action in 2010.

The control issues and the fact that Chapman still has a lot to learn is not causing MLB teams to shy away from the young Cuban, however.  ESPN listed him today as the fifth best free agent still available.

After all, it’s not often that you find a guy who can throw 100+…especially a left-hander.

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