Name: Matt Chapman
Height/Weight: 6’0’’, 210
How Acquired: Selected in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft
It was a painful first full season for Matt Chapman, but in between the injuries, Chapman put together some impressive numbers. Going into 2016, Chapman will be looking for better health to show what he is capable of doing over a full season.
Chapman was a somewhat surprising pick by the A’s with the 25th overall selection in 2014. He had a solid three-year career at Cal-State, Fullerton, but the A’s weren’t connected to Chapman in pre-draft rumors up until the day before the draft. That may, in part, be because the A’s interest in Chapman was cemented just days before the draft when he put together an impressive pre-draft tryout at the O.co Coliseum. The A’s were very familiar with Chapman before the tryout, but watching him launch homeruns to all sections of the Coliseum and make laser throw after laser throw across the diamond solidified their feelings about his potential.
Chapman’s pro debut season was disappointing – at least during the regular season. He appeared in 50 games for the Low-A Beloit Snappers and hit just .237/.282/.389 with five homers and only seven walks against 46 strike-outs. Chapman saved his pro debut with a post-season stint with the Double-A Midland RockHounds to remember. He joined the team just before the start of the playoffs and wound-up being the RockHounds’ post-season MVP, as Midland won the Texas League title. Chapman continued that positive momentum with a solid showing during the A’s fall Instructional League.
Matt Chapman stats
Chapman’s 2015 season got off to a rocky start. He injured his knee the day before the start of spring training and that injury cost him all of camp. He needed the first month of the regular season to rehab at extended spring training. Chapman didn’t receive all that many at-bats at extended before he made his regular season debut with the High-A Stockton Ports on May 7. He got off to a bit of a slow start, but he recovered to post an 836 OPS for the month.
The Southern California native continued to improve each month for Stockton. In June, he hit seven homers in 25 games and posted an 884 OPS. He got really hot in July, crushing 10 homers in 29 games and posting his best slashline of the season (.280/.376/.673).
Unfortunately, he didn’t get a chance to carry that over into August. Chapman injured his wrist on a play at second base (he was playing in a shift) and had to go on the disabled list just two games into the month. He returned in September and there was hope that he would be able to play for the Ports in the post-season and suit up in the Arizona Fall League, but his wrist began barking soon after he returned to the field and he was shut down after just three games. He missed the post-season and the AFL.
Chapman finished his season with the Ports with a .250/.341/.566 line. He hit 23 homers in 304 at-bats and posted a 79:39 K:BB. Given how hot he was at the time of his wrist injury, it would have been interesting to see what his final season totals would have been had he been able to play in August. Defensively, Chapman impressed all season with his plus throwing arm and agility at third. His error total (19 in 77 games) wasn’t indicative of the quality defense he was playing for Stockton. Many around the Cal League believed he was the best third baseman in the league and he was named the top defensive third baseman in the minor leagues by MLB.com.
A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman says that Chapman’s improvement from his time with Beloit to his time with Midland in the playoffs and Stockton in 2015 was a product of him letting go of the pressure of being a first-round pick.
“I think we came to understand that if you shave off all of the pressure and expectations, you can see a really, really good player,” Lieppman said. “He’s a really good player. The power numbers are backing up everything that we expected. In fact, he’s already exceeding some of our expectations with the bat.”
Chapman has made several adjustments at the plate since turning pro. In college, his swing was designed to sacrifice power for contact and was generally built to go up-the-middle or to right-center. Consequently, Chapman never hit more than six homers in any one season for Fullerton. After turning pro, Chapman worked with A’s hitting coaches to be more aggressive about pulling the ball, even if he had to sacrifice some contact. Chapman took to that change fairly quickly and the batting practice power turned into in-game power in 2015. The change has added some swing-and-miss to his game, however, as he struck-out 22.4 percent of the time in 2015. That number will need to be reduced if he is ever going to hit for average to go along with the power. Chapman raised his walk rate from 3.5% in 2014 to 11.1% in 2015, and that is a number that the A’s hope continues to rise in 2016.
A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens believes Chapman can be a force on both sides of the ball in the big leagues.
"He’s along the lines of a Dean Palmer, Travis Fryman type third baseman, where he is able to lock it down defensively and pop 25 homers at the third base position,” Owens said. “As he matures and maybe tightens that strike-zone, he may be able to increase that on-base percentage. But the defense is special and the raw power is off the charts. As he continues to tighten the strike-zone and learn about himself offensively, he has a chance to be a very strong, complete player.”
One area that Chapman will need to improve is one that he may have the least amount of control over: his ability to stay on the field. Chapman has missed time in each of his pro seasons with fluky injuries (a back injury in 2014 and the knee and wrist injuries in 2015). For him to reach his full potential, Chapman will need to be on the field every day.
Chapman is a non-roster invitee to spring training and is slated to start the year in Double-A Midland. He has plenty of talent at his position in front of him (Renato Nunez, Ryon Healy and Max Muncy), so he is likely to spend the entire season with the RockHounds, barring any significant changes to the A’s Triple-A roster.