Breakout Breakdown: Matt Chapman

The Oakland A’s 2017 second half didn’t get a ton of attention. They went 36-37, salvaging an ugly first half to finish 75-87, but they were an interesting fantasy team. They hosted Yonder Alonso’s breakout, another 40-homer season from Khris Davis, and a few other power gems. What you might’ve missed if you lost track of the A’s during that 2017 second half was a pair of emerging studs, one call up and one trade piece (this being Blake Treinen, who I’ll cover in another BB piece soon).

There were two Matts – Olson and Chapman – making an impact an Oakland last summer, but Matt Olson really stole the headlines by clubbing 24 HR in just 216 PA, en route to a 1.003 OPS. He wound up with a 124 ADP, regularly going within the top 100. Matt Chapman “only” hit 14 HR in his 84 games with a worthy .785 OPS, which slotted him outside the top 250 and barely inside the top 25 among 3B. While the offense was simply solid, his elite glove work at third base was securing his spot in the everyday lineup for 2018. Any additional offense would be a bonus for the A’s.

Chapman hit the ground running with a .269/.361/.529 April with 6 HR and 12 XBH in 119 PA. He quickly became one of the hottest waiver pickups, but wound up back on the wire in plenty of mixed leagues thanks to a .186/.272/.324 line 114 May PA. There was nothing in his skills to support such a dip, though. His strikeout rate jumped a couple ticks and there were a few more grounders, but he was still smacking the ball around. In fact, his soft contact rate dropped 11 points to just 14%. A halving of his HR/FB rate to 10% and an 82-point drop in his BABIP to .232 were primarily behind the modest May results, but neither seemed like they’d be his new normal.

Those who stayed the course were handsomely rewarded. Chapman was on fire in June (1.042 OPS in 47 PA) before a bruised thumb shelved him for a couple weeks, but picked right back up where he left off upon returning with a .921 OPS, 14 HR, and 42 RBI in his final 76 games. From June 1st on, Chapman hit .308 (14th in MLB), had a .379 OBP (22nd), and .557 SLG (13th) giving him a .936 OPS that was good for 12th.

He had a fantastic batted ball profile with dead even 39% flyball and groundball rates, spraying the ball all around the field (38% Pull, 35% Center, 27% Oppo), and constantly mashing as that 14% soft contact rate from May held on for the rest of the year (44% Medium, 42% Hard). He handled both lefties (.884 OPS) and righties (.958) while the power really shined against the latter (.293 ISO compared to .146 vL). He unquestionably excelled on the road (1.019 OPS, 10 HR), but wasn’t bad at home (.854, 5).

Factor in Chapman’s continued brilliance at third base as arguably the best defender in the game or at least the top guy at the hot corner and his season ended up as one worthy of down ballot MVP votes. Chapman went at pick 85 on average in the #2EarlyMocks, ranging from 66 to 105, though that put him outside the top 10 at third base thanks to the depth of the position.

He is going just behind Josh Donaldson (82 ADP), someone with whom obvious comparisons are made and rightfully so in my estimation. While I wouldn’t tab an MVP expectation on him, the big power and elite defensive profile in Oakland makes it hard to ignore the Donaldson similarities. With so many good players at third, you could reasonably find yourself slotting Chapman in at corner infield and getting premium performance. Or maybe bypass the cream of the crop and pair Chapman with someone like Max Muncy or Mike Moustakas and push 60+ HR from your 3B/CI combo.





Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Jim
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Jim

Chapman should go ahead of Donaldson, easy.

NickGerli
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NickGerli

Certainly in a keeper format, but I think it’s a toss-up in redraft. It was only 13-14 months ago that Donaldson was the best hitter in baseball.

https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders/splits-leaderboards?splitArr=&splitArrPitch=&position=B&autoPt=true&splitTeams=false&statType=player&statgroup=2&startDate=2017-08-01&endDate=2017-11-01&players=&filter=

An additional thing to think about – despite how god awful Donaldon’s 2018 season was, he still posted a 117 wRC+ and his prorated HR and RBI numbers (25 / 65) would have been the same as Chapman’s.

Strangely enough, I think Donaldson has more upside for 2019 than Chapman.