The Reds announced late Friday that Aroldis Chapman, who earlier this month said he would prefer to close for the club, will indeed be their ninth inning man. Mike Leake will slot into the fifth starte’rs role, and Jonathan Broxton, who signed a 3-year, $21 million contract in the offseason, will serve as the team’s set-up man.
Chapman immediately returns as one of the sport’s most dominant firemen, joining the company of elite level closers Craig Kimbrel, Jason Motte and Jonathan Papelbon. As an assumed starter, Chapman was being drafted around number 80 in Fantasy drafts, the same neighborhood as Papelbon, who was on average the second closer off the board. Chapman now should easily be the second closer off the board, probably in the 65-75 range.
Last season, Chapman notched 122Ks in just 76 innings (15.3 K/9). He earned 38 saves while posting a 1.51 ERA and 0.81 WHIP. We would expect an almost inevitable regression, but since his Ks and saves are the most valuable to your team, you can likely absorb a slight increase in his other stats. Manager Dusty Baker said he will not use Chapman more than two days in a row, so Broxton could be in line for a handful of saves and would be at the ready in case of injury or struggles by Chapman.
Broxton had elbow surgery in July 2011. He posted 27 saves in his return last season, and he improved as the season wore on. He saw his lowest career ERA and control last year, while his 6.98 K/9 was understandably well below his best years as he worked on arm strength. With a GB% over 50 percent for the first time since 2009, he may make for a very effective set-up man, but his Fantasy value is close to nil until and if he can boost his strikeout totals.
Leake pitched to an 8-9 record in 2012. He’s a predominant ground ball pitcher (GB% of 49) who struck out only 5.8 batters per nine innings last season. He was 12-9 with a 3.86 ERA in 2011, but had a better-than-average Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) against of .269. Last season his ERA rose to 4.58 while his BABIP was .306 (league average was .295 in 2011 and .297 last season.). Fantasy owners are likely to leave his 4.58 ERA and 1.35 WHIP from last season on the table. You should monitor him in the rotation, but his value is greatest in leagues that allow you to shuttle pitchers in and out daily, where he could help stabilize a good WHIP and ERA. We would bet on a season somewhere in between the last two years.
Chapman is being drafted, on average at number 81 this spring, according to the National Fantasy Baseball Championships ADP report. In the week since the speculation that he may return to the bullpen began, his ADP only climbed one slot from 82 . He will now be the second closer off the board. Kimbrel has been drafted in the top 50 in most drafts, with Papelbon and Motte in the 80/90 range.