It's a two-park risk equation, of course: 1) Losing Chapman's dominance out of the bullpen (38 saves, 1.51 ERA, 15.3 K's per nine, .141 batting average allowed); 2) Will it work?
For the first question, the Reds can afford to make the move because of their bullpen depth: New closer Jonathan Broxton won't match Chapman's statistical dominance, but considering Chapman blew four saves (all games he took the loss as well), the Reds' ninth-inning save percentage may remain the same. If anything, using Chapman as a 71-inning reliever -- where a lot of those innings are wasted in two- and three-run saves -- is under utilizing a valuable asset. Beyond Chapman, you have Sean Marshall, Sam LeCure, J.J. Hoover, Jose Arredondo, Logan Ondrusek and Alfredo Simon. It should be one of the best bullpens in the National League once again.
Will the move work? As a reliever, Chapman could just rear back and fire his 100-mph heater past helpless hitters. He threw his fastball 88 percent of the time last year, mixing in a slider. Some will say he'll need to add a third pitch, but that's not necessarily true if he can command his fastball. The obvious comparison is Randy Johnson, who made a pretty good living as a fastball/slider guy.
There haven't been a lot of successful reliever-to-starter conversions. C.J. Wilson, who spent four seasons in the Texas bullpen, is the best recent example. Alexi Ogando pitched out of the bullpen as a rookie in 2010 with the Rangers, had an excellent season in the rotation in 2011, but was moved back to the pen in 2012. (He may be back in the rotation this year.) Chris Sale was a reliever as a rookie with the White Sox, but he was drafted as a starter and used in the pen to limit his innings. Three conversions last year worked with mixed results: Jeff Samardzija showed top-of-rotation potential with the Cubs but Neftali Feliz got injured and Daniel Bard lost his ability to throw strikes.
What do you think? Let's assume the Reds will be somewhat conservative with Chapman and put his over/under at 150 innings -- about how many Stephen Strasburg threw last season for the Nationals.
As for his ERA, that's a little more difficult to project. I like his chances to succeed; his command was much improved last year, with his walk rate cut in half. Even if that regresses a little, he can still be effective with his stuff. I'll put the over/under on his ERA at 3.25.
For all the adulation given the Nationals' pitching staff last year, the Reds actually allowed the fewest runs in the league, a pretty remarkable achievement considering they play in a hitter's park. If Chapman's conversion works, they could be No. 1 again.