3 Yankees who’ve made biggest statements this spring
1. Aroldis Chapman
No Yankee has more negative postseason baggage to shrug off than Aroldis Chapman, who has ostensibly ended the team’s most recent two seasons on the mound.
What’s to blame? Bad luck? Or an increase in predictability? Whether you’re a believer or not, you have to give Chapman credit for controlling the controllables this offseason.
Over the past few seasons, Chapman’s mettle hasn’t been questioned, but his uniqueness has waned. His fastball has lost that next-level tick from 102-103 down to the more “mundane” 98-100, but every team has some variation of that heater waiting in the late innings. If all the closer has is an upper-echelon fastball and wipeout slider, then a Mike Brosseau type (for example!) can simply wait and wait and wait and wait on the fastball before pouncing on a perfect one.
That’s why Chapman clearly dedicated extra time this offseason to perfecting his newly-unleashed splitter, as well as making certain his velocity is extra heated for the opening salvo.
Aaron Boone quipped on Saturday night to make sure everyone noted that Chapman’s fastball hasn’t been hurting for velocity early in camp. Whereas we’re all used to him working himself into shape as the month progresses, that hasn’t really been the case this year. He arrived ready.
As for the splitter? Boone’s reaction to watching the pitch get uncorked says it all. If Chapman can rely on it as a third offering he feels comfortable with instead of tentatively hurling it once in a blue moon, that raises his ceiling as a closer to somewhere closer to his 2015-16 levels.
Perhaps that extra work will rewrite the ending of the Yankees’ season — finally.