The Reds have been cagey about their plans for Aroldis Chapman. And, given how much dissent there is about what his role should be, that plan might include returning him to the bullpen for good.
So it's hard to know what Chapman's spring means, even if we can actually conclude something definitive from his performance. Which we definitely can't after 5 innings. The same might be said of Devin Mesoraco and Jason Donald, whose roles are also presumably up-in-the-air.
But let's pretend.
I included Baseball Reference's "Opponent Quality" stat below, which C. Trent just wrote about. Basically, a 10 means facing a major-leaguer (on average) and somewhere between 8.5-9.0 seems pretty standard for spring training.
So far: 2 appearances, 4.0 innings, 16 batters faced, 2.25 ERA, 2 K, 1 BB, Opp quality: 9.6
Competition: Mike Leake, Tony Cingrani(??)
59 pitches, 39 strikes (66%).
All of these statlines can be ignored and maybe doubly so for Chapman. His main priority in the early-going seems to be commanding off-speed stuff. He's faced some tough hombres - with an OppQuality close to major-league level - including the heart of the Angels' order. Possibly the most impressive thing he's done so far is to flummox Albert Pujols with a slider and a change.
It looked like his control fell off a little against the Angels, but he's only walked one batter so far. His 66% strike rate is right in line with last season (64%) - and with David Price last season (65%). It's possible that's entirely meaningless too, given the sample size, but it's worth remembering that Chapman doesn't have to live in the zone to be successful. He can get plenty of strikes on desperation swings.
So far, Chapman has looked like a starting pitcher. Which is a pretty big deal. His secondary pitches look credible. Whether that means he's better than Mike Leake out of the gate - or whether it even matters to the brain trust - is the great question of our time.
So far: 8 games, 13 PAs, .385/.385/.923
Competition: Miguel Olivo
Meso has looked very sharp at and behind the plate so far, though he hasn't seen as much action as you'd expect with a DH spot and two split-squads. That may have to do with Dusty wanting to rest catchers early in spring. I have trouble believing the team would want to stunt Mesoraco's growth, while actually convincing itself Miguel Olivo has that much more to offer - so I think the spot is Meso's to lose.
So far: 11 games, 24 PAs, .316/.458 .421, Opponent quality = 8.0
Competition: Cesar Izturis, Emmanuel Burriss, Henry Rodriguez
Adjusting for the split squad games (and the Team Canada exhibition), Donald has appeared in 11 of 15 possible spring games. So he seems to be getting a good, long look for the non-Hannahan back-up infield spot. Burriss and Izturis have gotten basically the same amount of reps.
Donald's major advantages over those two are his bat, relative youth (plus 5 years of team control) and position flexibility beyond short stop. But he's the weakest short stop glove of the three, which might be the most important criteria for Dusty. Aside from all the usual caveats about spring stats, Donald has also faced sub-par competition to date.
Donald is out of options, so if he didn't make the major league team out of camp, he would have to pass through waivers.