Aroldis Chapman‘s Major League debut was met with nothing short of giddiness and excitement from legions of baseball fans last night. As Chapman was considered one of the best international prospects in the game and had crazy stuff to boot, it makes sense that fans both inside and outside of Cincinnati were extremely excited to watch this phenom. Throw in the utterly ridiculous radar gun readings showing a 105 MPH fastball and there’s the most anticipated debut this side of Stephen Strasburg. Unsurprisingly, as soon as Chapman took the mound, Twitter went over capacity. Now that’s a buzz.
Chapman didn’t disappoint – he touched 102.7 on the gun, according to Brooks Baseball, and the TV gun for FSN Wisconsin had Chapman at 103 to his first batter faced, Johnathan Lucroy. That’s legitimately unique velocity, although I have to say that I’m actually more impressed by this pitch. (h/t Big League Stew)
Chapman struck out Lucroy with an 86 MPH slider, which showcased a whopping eight inches of horizontal break. The pitch didn’t hit the 90 MPH mark nor move a foot and a half as Reds’ catcher Ryan Hanigan claimed, but that’s still impressive. Indeed, that pitch may end up being the true knockout in Chapman’s arsenal. He threw it twice and drew swinging strikes both times, whereas the fastball was thrown six times and “only” drew one whiff. MLB hitters are certainly capable of making contact with high velocity pitches, and almost every strikeout artist relies on a secondary pitch as the hammer, with the notable exception of Matt Thornton.
Eight pitches obviously aren’t enough to fully gauge what we have in Aroldis Chapman, but it’s certainly enough to get excited about. His stuff is sheer spectacle, and he should be a viable weapon out of the Reds’ bullpen down the stretch.