Evaluating Aroldis Chapman’s Value

With our RotoGraph fantasy rankings being released, I will look at one player who is tough to project, Aroldis Chapman. He is being moved to the starting rotation after being the Reds closer last season. While many pitchers have previously made the move, his high number of strikeouts make find comparables almost impossible. His 2012 15.3 K/9 was the 4th highest K/9 value since 1950 (min 40 IP). I will take a stab at his full time reliever or starter fantasy value.

Projecting Chapman as a reliever is easy, he should be the 2nd rated reliever with Craig Kimbrel being #1. Here are the average draft positions the pair and Jonathan Papelbon at Yahoo!, ESPN and MockDraftCentral.

Name:Yahoo!, ESPN, MDC
Kimbel: 45, 40, 27
Chapman: 66, 77, 133
Papelbon: 78, 79, 78

Not huge surprise considering the trio’s stats. While I would never take a closer as high as they are going at ESPN and Yahoo!, I firmly believe Chapman should be the 2nd highest rated closer.

Now, it is time to look at Chapman as a starter. By looking at projections, a better picture emerges because the projections have him as closer 100% of the time, a mix of closer and starter and 100% starter. Here are the projections.

2013 Fans (44) 29 24 149 1.13 178 2 10.8 3.3 0.300 3.22 2.77
2013 ZiPS 26 26 144 1.20 161 10.1 4.1 0.274 3.63 3.68
2013 Steamer 22 16 99 1.22 139 3 12.6 33.1% 4.6 12.1% 0.286 3.09 2.99
2013 Oliver 76 1.21 102 12.1 32.0% 4.6 12.2% 0.287 2.96 2.69
2013 Bill James 63 0 67 1.13 98 48 13.2 4.3 0.305 2.42 2.45

Bill James, which has him as a full time closer, puts his K/9 at 13.2 while ZiPS projects him has a full time starter and has his K/9 at 10.1. A K/9 of more than 10 would put him at the top of the league among starters.

Besides just using ZiPS values, I decided to look at other pitchers making the move from the bullpen to being a starting pitcher. I examined 8 pitchers and here is how they performed when moving from a reliever to a starter.

Note: I collected all the values before seeing if all the projection systems had a K% and BB%. K% and K/9 correlate closely (r-squared of 0.98 between the two), so I will just use the K% ratio for K/9.

RP K% SP K% K% Ratio RP BB% SP BB% BB% Ratio
David Wells 8.1% 5.5% 0.67 2.9% 2.1% 0.73
C.J. Wilson 10.3% 7.5% 0.73 3.9% 4.1% 1.05
Tommy Hunter 8.5% 4.7% 0.56 2.1% 1.8% 0.83
Chris Sale 10.0% 9.0% 0.90 3.4% 2.4% 0.70
Alexi Ogando 8.4% 6.7% 0.80 3.5% 2.3% 0.66
Adam Wainwright 8.6% 6.1% 0.70 2.6% 3.1% 1.18
Derek Lowe 8.1% 5.2% 0.65 2.9% 2.0% 0.69
Ryan Dempster 7.4% 8.1% 1.10 4.1% 3.3% 0.82
0.76 0.83

On average, their strikeouts went down 24% and their walks went down 17%. The Bill James K/9 would go from 13.2 to 10.0. It is almost exactly the same as the ZiPS value (10.1). The BB/9 value would go from 4.30 to 3.70. A bit lower than all the projections except the Fans.

One more stab at seeing how much his strikeouts will go down is to look at his 2010 season in AAA where he made 13 starts and 25 relief appearances. In the games he started, his K/9 was 9.7 and his BB/9 was 6.4. Part way through the season, he was moved to the relief role and his K/9 jumped to 15.9 and the BB/9 dropped to 2.0. It was his first season in the U.S., so I could see him mature as the season went on, but he really struggled as a starter. The ratio of K from starter to reliever was .61. Using this ratio, is 2013 K/9 may drop into the 8 K/9 range.

OK, enough on getting an idea of what his strikeouts and walks will do. Onto another issue. How far will he be able to pitch into games since he will be throwing a high number of pitchers for the strikeouts and walks? Using some of my previous work on predicting innings pitched, he looks to be around 175 innings pitched with him making 30 starts and throwing 100 pitches per start.

Going with 175 innings and 10 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9, here are the closest comparable starters (Steamer projections). The group of starters in the high strikeout range are hard to find, but here is my best shot.

Name: IP, K/9, BB/9, ESPN, Yahoo!, MDC
Stephen Strasburg: 171 IP, 10.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 19, 12, 34
Yu Darvish: 199 IP, 9.2 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 52, 58, 60
Gio Gonzalez: 186 IP, 8.9 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 45 , 54, 77
Max Scherzer: 180 IP, 8.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 91, 85,100
Tim Lincecum: 180 IP, 8.2 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 110, 110,188

Davish and Gonzalez are looking at throwing a few more innings with less strikeouts and walks. I could see Chapman “The Starter” going a bit after the pair in drafts. To get an idea of where he is going in drafts compared to other starting pitcher, here are the 4 pitchers with their ADP for the 2 pitchers picked right before and after Chapman.

64. Cueto
76. Latos
77. Zimmermann
85. Medlen

59. Halladay
64. Sale
67. Cueto
70. Latos

120. Latos
132. Haren
134. Moore
137. Morrow

At ESPN and Yahoo, he seems to be valued correctly among the starters. I am not sure if this correct ranking is because the websites over value relievers or the fans are more knowledgeable. At MDC, he is be drafted at a lower tier of starters and looks to be under valued.

To put it all together, he is a top three RP and a top 20-25 starter. He should be valued accordingly. I would assume he is going to be a starter and take him right after names like Darvish, Scherzer and Gonzalez are being taken. Now if he doesn’t make it as a starter, he will still be a top of the line reliever, so he will not be too much of an over pay. If you have no faith in making it as a starter, drop his value and let someone else overpay. Hopefully, I was able to narrow down his value somewhat.

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Jeff writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first season in Tout Wars, he won the H2H league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Lyndon Cox
Lyndon Cox

John Kimbel. Kindergarten cop. Braves relief pitcher.