With the Oakland Athletics deciding to dispatch of seemingly any and all of their near bottom-of-the-barrel veterans, that has made way for some intriguing young talent to grace the tattered remains of the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum. The trade of Trevor Plouffe, and subsequent realization of Ryon Healy’s relative uselessness on defense, has opened up the door for Matt Chapman, who could potentially serve as an impact piece for Oakland to also trade farther on down the line. For now, though, his ability to make an impact at the plate is starting to make him a relatively intriguing commodity in the home stretch, even if his numbers don’t necessarily indicate it.
In fact, Chapman’s numbers through almost 140 plate appearances are relatively paltry in general. His slash features a .223 average, while he’s reaching base at a clip of just .304. Not working in his favor are a BABIP of just .267 and a strikeout rate up near 30%. However, his OPS (.800) and ISO (.273) indicate that his bat has been a bit more impactful than some of the other figures would tend to indicate.
Actually, in the most general sense possible, hits of the extra base variety have sort of become Chapman’s specialty throughout his brief time at the Major League level, far more than any other hit type that finds its way onto the stat sheet.
Obviously we’re dealing with a sample size of only 138 plate appearances. And given that Chapman is only 24 and those account for all of his experience at the big league level, there’s still plenty of development to take place in his game. However, the fact that he’s maintained such a large presence in the box score when it comes to extra base hits is extremely interesting, and makes him more of an intriguing element of this A’s club moving forward, even if the average and OBP figures tend to serve as more of a deterrent than anything.
That’s one thing that people are going to have to learn to live with in regard to Matt Chapman. Despite the power he possesses (and his .316 ISO from High-A in 2015 and .276 mark from Double-A in 2016 indicate that it’s there), he’s never been a terribly high OBP guy. But when one considers the upside that he presents, there’s certainly an elevated level of intrigue, even with his noticeable shortcomings.
Across those 138 plate appearances thus far, Chapman has 27 hits to his credit. Of those, just nine of them (33%) are singles. The remainder have been of the extra base variety, with 10 doubles, a triple, and seven home runs to his credit. His ISO, at .273, ranks fifth among third basemen who have at least 120 plate appearances this season, of which there are 48. He’s also hitting the ball at the seventh-highest rate, with a Hard% of 37.8%. Obviously an ability to make consistently hard contact combined with a flyball rate, the latter of which Chapman has a 58.5% figure, is going to lend itself to some success on the XBH side. His park-adjusted offense comes in at 112, making him an above average hitter according to that metric alone, which is somewhat impressive considering the limitations presented by some of his other statistical outputs.
I mentioned the shortcomings. They’re very apparent. Chapman’s strikeout rate, at 29.7, ranks near the top of that group of third basemen, coming in sixth, while his contact rate, at 69.0% (nice) is the fourth lowest among those 48 players at the hot corner. His whiff rate, at 13.0%, is the fifth highest. Also not ideal is the fact that he’s managed to remain patient, with a swing rate of only 42.0% (38th lowest in that group), and is still having difficulty making regular contact. At the same time, those who have followed Chapman wouldn’t be terribly surprised by that development. His hit tool is probably always going to be something of a question, even if his power is not.
With that said, it’s definitely worth maintaining hope that Chapman will get a few more balls to fall, and that BABIP will creep up more toward league average, rather than remaining at the brutal figure at which it currently resides. Even if he could boost that average toward the mid-.200s, while getting that OBP up another 20 or so points, he’d become all the more intriguing of a commodity. It’s certainly possible. There’s a decent approach and walk rate in there somewhere, the less-than-reputable contact and punchout numbers notwithstanding.
Regardless of what developments transpire on the contact side of things, there’s certainly the potential for immense upside from Matt Chapman moving forward. As a non-fantasy entity, he has enormous defensive potential, in conjunction with the power that he presents. If he can boost those average and on-base numbers even modestly, his power game will play well in the future, even in spite of the glaring deficiencies currently present in his game. There’s a lot to be said for a high-risk player, when the reward from Chapman has the potential to be what it is.