Catching up with our MLB Rookie Profiles in the aftermath of the 2017 draft, we turn our attention to Matt Chapman, third baseman of the Oakland Athletics. Chapman was promoted to the major leagues on June 15th and has gone 3-for-14 in his first four games. Alas, Chapman is now sidelined with a knee infection and is taking antibiotics.
Assuming this knee issue clears up OK, here’s a quick take on what to expect going forward.
Selected in the first round in 2014 from Cal State Fullerton, Chapman hit just .237/.282/.389 in 50 games in the Midwest League that summer. A wrist injury limited him to 80 games in 2015 but his power surged, with 23 homers alongside a .250/.341/.556 line in High-A. He mashed 36 homers in the high minors last year and was hitting .257/.348/.589 with 16 homers in 49 games of Triple-A before his recent promotion.
Chapman ranked fourth on the pre-season Oakland Athletics Top 20 prospects for 2017 list, with a Grade B/B+ and the following commentary:
4) Matt Chapman, 3B, Grade B/B+: Age 23, first round pick in 2014 from Cal State Fullerton; hit .237/.328/.519 with 36 homers, 68 walks, 173 strikeouts in 514 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; headlines start with excellent third base defense, with cannon arm, above-average reliability and superb range; Gold Glove if he hits enough to play regularly; 60-grade power bat is obvious and he’ll take a walk, but contact problems are equally obvious; may struggle to hit .230 in majors without more adjustments; ETA late 2017
Home run power is the obvious draw with his bat. While Chapman has made some strides with strike zone judgment, his whiff rate remains quite high (63 in 175 at-bats for Nashville). Even with further improvement is seems unlikely that he’ll hit for much of an average.
All that said, what really stands out for Chapman is defense: he is an exceptionally good defensive third baseman, with an 80-arm, enough range to play shortstop, and much better reliability and situational awareness than most players his age. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Chapman is one of the best defensive third basemen I’ve ever seen in person.
Terrific defense combined with home run power: that’s Chapman. Don’t expect a high batting average and contact will always be a concern, but if his knee is OK he should be a very valuable player.