This afternoon, it has been reported that the Royals have acquired catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Jason Bourgeois from the Astros in exchange for minor league reliever Kevin Chapman and a player to be named later.
Fans are probably familiar with Quintero, the defensive specialist who has been a Houston fixture for several years, and fantasy players are familiar with Bourgeois, who briefly became a hot stolen base commodity last season. But what of the player heading to Houston?
Chapman is a 24-year-old lefthanded relief pitcher who has made quick work of the minors since being drafted in the fourth round in 2010. In 80 innings split nearly evenly between High-A and Double-A, he has struck out 110 batters while walking an acceptable 36.
A tall southpaw, Chapman has a deceptive motion that includes a high set position and leg kick with a low-three-quarters arm slot. It’s sort of a less-dramatic version of the motion that made former Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson a devastating middle man in the 1990s.
Chapman utilizes a fastball in the low 90s that gets good sink and jumps on hitters, allowing him to rack up both strikeout and groundballs (49.3% groundball rate in 2011). He also throws a very good slider that terrorizes lefthanded batters–he struck out 41 of the 108 he faced in 2011.
Chapman could stand to cut down on his walk rate, but given his two above-average pitches, groundball ability, and deception, it’s easy to see him carving out a long career as a lefthanded reliever, becoming one of the better bullpen southpaws in the game. He should open 2012 in Triple-A Oklahoma City and could be up to Houston quickly, though their bullpen situation is suddenly beginning to look crowded, with other players like Juan Abreu, Sammy Gervacio, Mickey Storey, and Daniel Meszaros all looking to have big years in OKC.
The trade’s ultimate success may hinge on who the PTBNL in the deal is, but Chapman should be a nice acquisition for an Astros team that continues to add young talent as it builds for the future.
For more on the Astros, check out Climbing Tal’s Hill.