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Oakland Athletics

Pleskoff Scouting Report | Matt Chapman

Oakland Athletics' Matt Chapman follows through on a two-run single off New York Yankees' Jonathan Holder during the eighth inning of a baseball game Friday, June 16, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)
  • TEAM: Oakland Athletics
  • AGE: 24
  • POSITION: 3B
  • BATS: Right
  • THROWS: Right
  • HEIGHT: 6-foot-0
  • WEIGHT: 210 lbs.
  • ACQUIRED: The Oakland Athletics chose Chapman in the first round of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of California State University Fullerton, in Fullerton, California.

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STRENGTHS

Chapman is a very strong, very powerful, well-proportioned athlete. His raw power is his most advanced and best tool. He should be able to power the ball out of any park, even pitcher-friendly Oakland Coliseum. He is easily considered the Athletics’ best power-hitting prospect.

In 2016, he hit 36 home runs and drove in 96 runs playing for Double-A Midland in the Texas League (29) and at Triple-A Nashville in the Pacific Coast League (7). His home run output was third overall in minor league baseball.

It isn’t only his power that sets him apart as a fine third base prospect with high upside and the ceiling of a consistent starting third baseman.

Chapman is an excellent defensive third baseman, probably the best defensive infielder on the Athletics’ organizational depth charts.

Chapman has an exceptionally strong and accurate arm from third base. In my observations of him, his arm strength grades as a 70 on the 40-80 scout grading scale, and in my opinion the best in the Athletics organization for an infielder. That includes the outstanding arm of shortstop/second baseman Franklin Barreto.

Finally, Chapman’s ability to accept a base on balls sometimes runs contrary to his aggressive “all or nothing” approach at the plate. He walked 68 times last year, a high and very acceptable amount for a power hitter like Chapman. He has a good eye at the plate and knows a ball from a strike.

WEAKNESSES

While scouts are effusive in their praise of Chapman’s power potential, the discussion is tempered a bit by his long swing and aggressive approach at the plate. He strikes out way too much. In that same 2016 season when he was pounding the ball out of ballparks, he was striking out a whopping 173 times. The Athletics will have to live with the power/strikeout combination as they are with outfielder Khris Davis.

With the high strikeout rate and hunting the long ball in his approach, Chapman won’t likely hit for a high batting average.

Even though he is an excellent athlete, he can’t count speed among his tools and gifts. He may steal a base every now and again, but stealing bases isn’t why he will make the Athletics better.

Oakland Athletics' Josh Phegley, right, and Matt Chapman celebrate after scoring against the New York Yankees during the second inning of a baseball game Thursday, June 15, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

NARRATIVE

Chapman was a three-year letter winner at El Toro High School in Lake Forest, California. In his junior year he hit .429 and he hit .422 as a senior, showing a consistent ability to succeed at the plate. As an added bonus, he maintained a 3.5 grade point average throughout high school.

Chapman had a fantastic career at Cal State Fullerton. He made several All-Star and All-America teams during his tenure, including the 2013 USA Collegiate National Team. He was on the Louisville Slugger and Baseball America Third Team All-America squads in his junior year.

In his junior year prior to the draft, Chapman made 53 starts at third base and one at shortstop for the Fullerton Titans. He finished the year hitting a career best .312 with six home runs. He led his team in RBIs with 48.

Scouts watched Chapman while he played at Fullerton and while he was playing for the USA Collegiate National team. The Athletics chose him as their first-round pick at number 25 overall in 2014.

His first season as a professional was hampered by a knee injury and a wrist injury that ultimately required surgery. He came to life with his 36 home runs in the 2016 season.

Chapman even pitched for Team USA when he came out of the bullpen and threw 98 with his fastball. He had pitched in high school, but never in college. Even though he also played shortstop in college, it really appears his future is at third base with Oakland. However, he is a good athlete and he might be able to help at several infield positions.

Chapman was named the Texas League Player of the Year for 2016.

Interestingly, Colorado Rockies All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado was on the same El Toro High School team with Chapman. At the time Arenado was a shortstop. Chapman credits watching Arenado play defense as a mentor, learning as much from watching Arenado play as possible.

With offseason acquisition Trevor Plouffe now playing for the Tampa Bay Rays, Ryan Healy may be the only remaining competition for Chapman for the rest of this season. Plouffe really scuffled with the Athletics. Enter Chapman.

He was promoted to the Athletics and made his major league debut June 15, 2017, against the New York Yankees. He hit seventh in the batting order and walked twice, scored once and didn’t get a hit in five trips to the plate. He also struck out twice.

THE FUTURE FOR CHAPMAN

It goes without saying that every major league club covets the type of raw power Chapman brings to his game. However, will his power become a home run reality at the major league level?

Chapman has scuffled hitting breaking balls in the past. That is usually the case with young players, and power hitters are a bit more vulnerable because they hunt home runs and are usually a bit more aggressive. If he shows some plate discipline and improves his approach against sliders, curveballs and cutters, he can stick as a well above average third baseman.

One of the attractive factors about Chapman is his discerning eye at the plate. His pitch recognition is good and he accepts walks. He showed that already in his debut with the Athletics. He walked twice against the Yankees.

Chapman could stick as the Athletics’ third baseman of the present and the future. Or, by the time you read this, he may be on his way back to Triple-A to play until September call-ups are announced. Either way, he seems a big part of the Athletics’ future.

CONCLUSIONS

Selected by the Athletics as a third baseman in the 2014 draft, Chapman can probably also play anywhere in the infield. His arm is strong enough for him to pitch as well. That likely isn’t in the plan.

Although there are lots of really good third basemen in the league, Chapman plays the type of defense that can earn him a Gold Glove at some point in his career.

Chapman has excellent range at third base. He has quick feet, great reflexes and terrific baseball instincts.

Exuding confidence in his game, Chapman is the type of player that can make an impact with the Athletics. He won’t be just another “guy.” He can become a leader on his team.

Even though the Athletics have other prospects in the organization that can play third base like Yairo Munoz and even Renato Nunez, Chapman appears to be the best of the group.

SCOUTING PHRASE FOR CHAPMAN: A good hitting and superb fielding third baseman with an exciting major league future.

SCOUTING GRADE FOR CHAPMAN: 55 – An above average major league third baseman

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff

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