After missing out on Oakland's 2013 first-rounder Billy McKinney this spring, the Beloit Snappers were more than happy to pick up the Oakland A's first selection in this year's draft, Cal State-Fullerton standout third baseman Matt Chapman.
Chapman signed quickly after Oakland made him the 25th overall selection, and he got his feet wet in a trio of Arizona Rookie League games before boarding a plane bound for the Midwest League on Monday. Chapman collected six hits in 14 at-bats in Arizona, quickly proving he was too good for that level of competition. In fact, the A's decided he was too good for both short-season leagues, jumping him up to the full-season Midwest League.
Chapman is approaching the aggressive promotion to a full-season affiliate with an open mind.
"I'm just going to go up and try to take good at-bats," said Chapman, who has three hits in his first eight at-bats for the Snappers. He drove-in his first run at Burlington Wednesday night.
"I'll enjoy the moment and have fun," Chapman said. "I won't put too much pressure on myself. I just want to go out there and play the game. I think I will definitely see some college guys that I have played against. There are some good pitchers up here and college has prepared me for this level."
The corner infielder certainly enjoyed a lot of success while playing in a high-profile Titan program during his three years at Fullerton. Chapman hit .312 with six homers, 48 RBI and a .412 on-base percentage in 54 games this season. He was also one of several 2014 first-rounders that played for the US collegiate National Team last summer in an exhibition against the Cuban National Team.
Although Chapman certainly established himself as a high-round selection with his work over the past year, he had already been on the A's radar for several years. Chapman played on the A's fall scout league team in Southern California as a high-schooler. His coach was none other than current Beloit Snappers' manager Rick Magnante, but the skipper admitted that he didn't remember too much about Chapman's game way back then.
"He said he wasn't any good back then, as like a 10th-grader in high school," laughs Magnante. "I think I did remember him a little bit, but I don't have a great recollection of him as an amateur level other than his sophomore year he got a little notoriety at Cal State-Fullerton as a kid that was coming on. This year he blossomed into the type of player he became as a first-rounder."
Matt Chapman, Batting Practice Video
June 24, 2015, Video By Bill Seals
While the A's were apparently always fond of Chapman, it took an O.Co Coliseum pre-draft workout to entirely sell the organization on his abilities.
"I took some ground balls, threw across the infield," Chapman said. "The ground balls went well and then I was lucky enough to take batting practice and they watched me. That was pretty much all it was – a short, quick workout that helped my cause."
Chapman didn't hear much from A's scouts immediately following the workout, though.
"It was just kind of a meet-and-greet and nothing was official until I got drafted," he said. "Now I have had the chance to talk to them and get to know them on a personal level."
After signing with Oakland, Chapman went right to work during a brief stint in Arizona. In addition to getting some side work in with the organization's hitting coordinator Marcus Jensen, Chapman went 6-for-14 with a double and triple in three AZL A's games.
"It was awesome and gave me a chance to experience what pro ball is all about," Chapman said. "Coming to Low-A ball here is kind of throwing me into the fire a little bit, to see what I'm made of.
"But it was nice to get a little feel for what pro ball really is. I got to swing a wood bat and see some live pitching before I came out here. Then they just kind of told me where I was going. I was not sure where they were going to send me, but I think they had a good idea I was going to go to Beloit and it worked out this way."
Jensen didn't make wholesale changes to Chapman's game, but there were a few tweaks made before the third baseman shipped out to Beloit.
"[Marcus] made a couple of comments to him about things he'd like to see him do a little differently," Magnante said. "It's nothing drastic, just maybe keeping a better base and staying through the ball a little longer with his swing plane. He's here to play and we're going to see how he does."
Although Chapman has started the first two games since he arrived with the Snappers, Magnante said the plan is to ease him into the professional grind.
"We're just going to let him get his feet wet here, settle in and see who he is," Magnante said. "We're not going to do too much with him. We'll assess and take a look. We'll progressively get him into games. It will probably be 'play two, DH, maybe a day off, play two, and that type of thing' until he gets his legs underneath him and gets used to the routine of playing every day."