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Top Reds Prospect Aroldis Chapman Converts to Outfield
(AP) Sources from Cincinnati Reds spring training camp in Goodyear, Arizona, confirm that heralded Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman has decided to give up pitching in favor of hitting.
"It's very surprising and not what we expected, obviously," said Walt Jocketty, Reds General Manager and President of Baseball Operations. "Last week he told Dusty (Baker, Reds manager) that he was thinking about hitting. Aroldis said he wants to play every day. We told him to think it over carefully, but he came back to me last night and explained that this is really what he wants to do. It is a unique situation but we will give him the opportunity to do so."
Originally expected to begin the season in the minor leagues, Chapman will instead stay behind in extended spring training to work on his hitting and outfield play. "He's a terrific athlete and has the tools to be a fine player," said Reds manager Baker, "but he'll need reps in the outfield. His defense will need a lot of work before we think about bringing him up to the majors. His throwing arm will be great in right field."
Bill Bavasi, Cincinnati's Vice President of Scouting and Player Development, agreed with Baker's assessment. "Although we'd prefer it if Aroldis would pitch, he's a great prospect as a hitter, too. I can see him developing into another Tony Oliva." Oliva, a Cuban, was a eight-time All-Star outfielder with the Minnesota Twins, and winner of the 1964 Rookie of the Year Award.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a highly-placed official with another organization described Chapman's decision as a "disaster for the Reds" given the large contract he signed in January. "They gave him six years and 30 million thinking he'll be the Cuban Randy Johnson. But instead they got a raw tools outfielder who may or may not develop."
Neither Jocketty nor Bavasi would speculate on where or when Chapman would begin his professional career. "Let's see how he does in extended spring training," said Jocketty, "before we put him on a roster."
Speaking through an interpreter at Reds camp, Chapman said "I want to play every day like Kendry Morales," referring to the Los Angeles Angels first baseman and fellow Cuban.