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Oakland A's prospect watch: Matt Chapman shines at 3B, Max Muncy emerges

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Muncy is trying to Maximize his value.
Muncy is trying to Maximize his value.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Before the season began, Athletics Nation voted on its annual Community Prospect List, ranking the 25 best players in the minors. With hope for the playoffs dwindling by the day, it's time for us to take a look at how those top prospects are doing. For the full 2015 list, as well as a list of the different categories that I've separated the prospects into, scroll to the bottom of the post.

Today, we will visit The Corner Sluggers: Third Basemen. We looked at a few first basemen last time, including Renato Nunez, who currently plays third but who I have a hunch will wind up at first by the time he makes the bigs. This time, we have a pure third baseman (Chapman), a first baseman who spends the majority of his time at third (Healy), and a first baseman whose path to MLB will likely require him to become competent at third (Muncy). Overall, the infield corners were home to three of Oakland's top four preseason prospects (Olson, Chapman, Nunez), all of whom have big power potential and are having encouraging years.

No. 3 -- Matt Chapman
No. 18 -- Max Muncy
NR -- Ryon Healy

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Lots of credit to Athletics Farm for helping out with info for this post, especially with interviews of Billy Owens (Oakland A's Director of Player Personnel), Grady Fuson (A's special assistant, former A's Scouting Director and former Rangers Assistant General Manager), Rick Magnante (High-A Stockton Ports manager), David Forst (A's assistant general manager), and Mike Gallego (A's 3B coach and infield coach).

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No. 3: 3B Matt Chapman

Current level: High-A (Stockton Ports)

2015 High-A stats: 340 PAs, .259/.353/.587, 149 wRC+, 23 HR, 39 BB, 77 Ks

(Currently on 7-day DL with left wrist injury)

Chapman was Oakland's first-round pick in 2014, and he didn't waste any time making a big splash in professional ball. After posting decent numbers in his debut at Single-A Beloit, the A's called him up to Double-A Midland for the Texas League playoffs as an injury replacement. He hit a pair of homers and went 9-for-29 to help the RockHounds to the championship, just a few months after being drafted. That strong first impression, on top of his high draft pedigree, earned Chapman the No. 3 spot on this list.

The scouting report on Chapman is simple: He has serious power but entered the season with work to do on his swing and plate discipline, and by all accounts he has the talent to be an elite defender at the hot corner. In particular, his throwing arm is the thing that stands out, with Billy Owens (via A's Farm) giving it a grade of 8 on the 2-to-8 scale and calling it "as strong a throwing arm as anybody playing baseball." David Forst went a step further in February (via A's Farm, though I was in the room too!): "Other than [Eric] Chavez, we haven't seen anyone come through the system with that kind of ability and that arm at third base." According to MLB.com, his fastball has hit 98 mph in occasional pitching appearances.

Chapman started the year at High-A Stockton, and the result has been pretty much a best-case scenario despite the fact that he missed the first month with a knee injury. He got off to a strong start and then took off in the middle of June; his OPS, home runs, and walks all increased each month, from May to June to July. All told, he has tallied 23 long balls in only 77 games, while also keeping his strikeouts in check (22.6%, not great but not terrible). Honestly, when looking at Chapman, it's probably just as informative to check his strikeout rate as his slugging percentage. Ports manager Rick Magnante (via A's Farm) attests that "[r]ight now, his physical strength is allowing him to overcome technique that needs to be improved," and Grady Fuson (via A's Farm) insists that there is "no doubt about the power ... It's all going to depend on how good a hitter he ends up becoming." Here's the power they're talking about:

Unfortunately, there is not currently a happy ending to this entry. Chapman was scratched from Stockton's game on Aug. 3 with an injury to his left wrist, and he is yet to play since that time. The Ports put him on the 7-day DL on Aug. 9, and while it is currently not being deemed season-ending it's still a bummer to see one of the brightest prospects in the system miss time during a breakout year. Certainly makes it less fun watching the box scores. It's also disconcerting to see Chapman miss time to two different injuries to two different parts of his body this early in his career, after also getting banged up a bit in Beloit last year. Is he going to be an injury-prone player? I don't mean to start a false narrative, I'm just adding up one plus one here. The specific injuries don't worry me, but their prevalence makes me take note in the back of my mind.

Even despite the injuries, though, this has been an amazing season for Chapman. His two big selling points -- his throwing arm and his HR power -- are both playing as serious strengths in his first full year of professional ball. Before hurting his wrist, he'd posted a 1.061 OPS since July 1, with 11 homers in 135 PAs -- that's about one in every 12 trips to the plate, or every three games. His next test will come in Double-A Midland next year, where he won't have Banner Island Ballpark helping him out (16 of his 23 HR have come at home) and where he'll have to work even harder to keep his strikeouts under control against better pitching. He'll turn 23 next season, so if he continues to mash after another promotion then who knows if the A's might consider fast-tracking him a bit. For now, he has maintained his status as one of Oakland's very top prospects.

A few extra Chapman links for you:

- Jerry Brewer (EBHI) analyzes Chapman's swing at Stockton's May 31 game (link)
- Ports manager Rick Magnante breaks down Chapman's swing and approach at the plate, via A's Farm in July (link)
- A's Farm interviews Chapman himself in July (link)

No. 18: 1B/3B Max Muncy

Current level: Triple-A (Nashville Sounds)

2015 Triple-A stats: 180 PAs, .260/.356/.416, 108 wRC+, 4 HR, 24 BB, 46 Ks
2015 MLB stats: 91 PAs, .207/.275/.378, 82 wRC+, 2 HR, 8 BB, 24 Ks

After bursting onto the scene in Stockton in 2013, Muncy stumbled in pitcher-friendly Midland last year with only seven homers and a .379 slugging percentage. He still maintained his plate discipline in Double-A, but nevertheless it looked to me like he might struggle to get playing time at a corner infield position in 2015, at either Triple-A (Ravelo, Freiman) or Double-A (Olson, Nunez, Healy). However, Ravelo and Freiman were both out with injuries by the time spring training came to a close, so Muncy found himself with an everyday job at first base right out of the gate.

Muncy was off to a good start in Nashville when circumstance came calling once again. Ben Zobrist was placed on Oakland's DL on April 25, and with primary backup Tyler Ladendorf also out of action Muncy was the next choice to replace him. What I'm saying is, if Muncy is ever behind you on a depth chart for anything in life, or even behind you in line for coffee, maybe just step aside and let him take your spot or else the universe will find a way to make it happen.

As for his offensive profile, I'll start this way: Muncy's at-bats are long, and he possesses bartonian patience. His average of 4.34 pitches per plate appearance is tops on the A's this year, and in fact the last A's hitter to exceed that mark was Daric Barton himself in 2012 (along with Allen, Cowgill, and Recker that same year). The good news is that, from what I saw, he uses that advantage to find a pitch he can swing at rather than troll for walks, though walks are a natural byproduct of that strategy. The next step for him is to make better contact with those pitches that he does swing at, because too often I saw him work a favorable count, swing at a fat pitch, and do nothing with it. He turns 25 in a couple weeks, and he already has an MLB-ready batting eye, so there's reason to hope he can develop into a contributor at the plate. Muncy had this to say about his 2014 stats at Midland, and the struggles that are now behind him (via A's Farm):

[F]or a pull left-handed hitter, that wind blows in about 40 mph every single day. And the field dimensions in Midland are just gigantic, and you've got about a 30-foot wall all the way around the field. ... You shouldn't let the hitting conditions affect you, but I think one the things that happens is you feel like you have to start doing a little more and you start changing your swing. I definitely let that affect me, especially [in 2014]. I came back from that injury, and I just felt like I had to start using more body and getting a bigger swing just to get the ball out. I ended up changing everything, and it cost me a lot last year.

On the defensive side, in what little we saw of him at the MLB level, I thought he looked like a solid first baseman and a work-in-progress at third base. He still made mistakes at 1B, but he looked to me like a guy who will at least be average there in the long run.

At 3B, well, it seemed like he was able to fake it there and he could have room for improvement, but that he probably isn't someone you want to rely on full-time. On the other hand, Mike Gallego raved about his arm, natural talent and instincts (via A's Farm), and saw him as a guy who simply needed more reps to succeed. I certainly won't argue that it's worth giving him a shot there when possible to see what happens. He definitely made some slick plays while he was here.

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As a corner infielder who doesn't hit for power, it's a lot easier to make it at 3B than 1B. Either way, though, it's nice to see Muncy bounce back from a questionable 2014 to fight for MLB at-bats this year. In my eyes, his floor is as a lefty bench bat and his ceiling is a lite version of that one awesome 5-WAR season that Barton had, with a high OBP and above-average defense at 1B (and/or 3B) to make up for a lack of pop. But that ceiling will require further development on both sides of the ball.

NR: 1B/3B Ryon Healy

Current level: Double-A (Midland RockHounds)

2015 Double-A stats: 443 PAs, .296/.337/.422, 110 wRC+, 9 HR, 27 BB, 60 Ks, 66 games at 3B

Despite being a third-round pick just two years ago in 2013, Healy failed to crack our list last winter. However, he checked in at No. 17 on Oakland Clubhouse's rankings, so that was enough to get him into our Top 30 as an NR (Not Ranked) player. He was originally destined for The Best of The Rest category, but his performance over the last month has put him back on the map.

Healy clocked in as a below-average hitter in Singe-A in '13, and then again in High-A in '14. There was a little bit of power, and he didn't strike out much, but there wasn't much to get excited about for a first baseman learning to play third base. He was drafted out of college, though, and this is his age-23 season, so the A's decided to keep moving him up and see how things developed at Double-A. He was plugging along, putting up the same lackluster numbers as always, when a ground ball hit him in the face on July 4 and sent him to the DL.

He came back on July 16, and since then he has been locked in. In 114 plate appearances over 26 games, he's batting .374/.404/.561 (.964 OPS) with 11 extra-base hits (4 of them HRs) and 22 RBI. Granted, he's getting a bit of help from a .391 BABIP, but he's also making a ton of contact -- his strikeout rate is way down and his walks are slightly down -- and he's tapping into some of the power that he hasn't shown in the past.

Time will tell if it's a hot month or something more, but from a numbers standpoint it's really the first encouraging thing he's done since he was drafted and it came at the highest level and the toughest hitting environment he's yet experienced. And, as a bonus, if this does indeed prove to be the turning point in his career, then maybe the A's can have a running joke in which, whenever Healy slumps, someone throws a ball at his face to snap him back out of it. That would be the best.

Healy is ranked No. 22 in Oakland's system in the current midseason rankings on MLB.com, with the following note:

Healy has a short, quick swing with loft, giving him the potential to hit for both average and power. He does a good job of making contact and using the entire field to hit. ... Healy profiles best at first base, but no matter where he settles defensively, it'll be up to his bat to get him to the Major Leagues.

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The categories:

The Graduates
The MLB Pitching Depth
The Young Hurlers
The Even Younger Hurlers
The Middle Infielders
The Corner Sluggers: 1B
- The Corner Sluggers: 3B
- The Best of the Rest
- Stepping up in 2015
- The 2015 Draft
- The New Acquisitions

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The List

Each player is listed at the level at which he currently plays, and his stats only include his performance at that current level. The levels refer to the Nashville Sounds (AAA), the Midland RockHounds (AA), the High-A Stockton Ports (A+), the Single-A Beloit Snappers (A), and the short-season Low-A Vermont Lake Monsters (A-). For the hitters, I am going to focus less on raw numbers and more on league-adjusted stats (wRC+) and rates (K% and BB%).

The list has been expanded to include the five new July trade acquisitions (stats listed are since their acquisitions), as well as five of the top June draft picks (first six picks minus third-round pick Dakota Chalmers, who is still in Rookie ball).

* The following recent promotion is not reflected: Rangel Ravelo to Triple-A. ... Dillon Overton (AA), Yairo Munoz (A+), and Mikey White (A) received midseason promotions and I've only included their stats at their new, higher levels. ... R.J. Alvarez, Max Muncy, Tyler Ladendorf, and Pat Venditte have all appeared in MLB this year but are currently back in the minors.

^ Player is currently on the disabled list. New additions since last update: Matt Chapman (left wrist), Dylan Covey (struck by liner, chin laceration) ... Old injuries: Franklin Barreto (wrist), Sean Nolin (shoulder), Tyler Ladendorf (ankle), Bobby Wahl (undisclosed) ... Chris Kohler hasn't pitched since July 26 and Richie Martin hasn't played since Aug. 8, but neither is currently listed on Vermont's DL.

Oakland A's 2015 Community Prospect List (stats thru Aug. 12)
# Name Pos Age Level 2015 Stats
1 Matt Olson 1B 21 AA 492 PAs, 123 wRC+, 13 HR, 17.9% BB, 23.6% Ks
2 Franklin Barreto^ SS 19 A+ 354 PAs, 119 wRC+, 12 HR, 4.2% BB, 18.4% Ks
3 Matt Chapman^ 3B 22 A+ 340 PAs, 149 wRC+, 23 HR, 11.5% BB, 22.6% Ks
4 Renato Nunez 3B 21 AA 364 PAs, 111 wRC+, 15 HR, 6.9% BB, 16.2% Ks
5 Dillon Overton LHP 23 AA 8 starts, 4.28 ERA, 40 ip, 25 Ks, 11 BB, 3 HR, 3.86 FIP
6 Kendall Graveman RHP 24 MLB 19 starts, 100 ERA+, 106⅓ ip, 1.94 K/BB, 0.4 fWAR
7 Yairo Munoz SS 20 A+ 63 PAs, 106 wRC+, 2 HR, 1.6% BB, 11.1% Ks
8 Sean Nolin^ LHP 25 AAA 10 games, 2.67 ERA, 33⅔ ip, 26 Ks, 17 BB, 3 HR, 5.09 FIP
9 Raul Alcantara RHP 22 A+ 12 starts, 4.66 ERA, 38⅔ ip, 25 Ks, 7 BB, 3 HR, 4.17 FIP
10 Joey Wendle 2B 25 AAA 505 PAs, 87 wRC+, 6 HR, 3.6% BB, 18.0% Ks
11 R.J. Alvarez RHP 24 AAA 24 games, 3.41 ERA, 29 ip, 39 Ks, 12 BB, 0 HR, 2.26 FIP
12 Rangel Ravelo 3B 23 AA* 98 PAs, 137 wRC+, 2 HR, 9.2% BB, 17.3% Ks
13 Mark Canha 1B/OF 26 MLB 276 PAs, 91 wRC+, 8 HR, 6.5% BB, 20.3% Ks, 0.7 fWAR
14 Chad Pinder SS 23 AA 444 PAs, 138 wRC+, 14 HR, 5.9% BB, 20.5% Ks
15 Chris Bassitt RHP 26 MLB 12 games, 157 ERA+, 54⅓ ip, 2.75 K/BB, 1.1 fWAR
16 Dustin Driver RHP 20 A- 10 games, 3.60 ERA, 40 ip, 25 Ks, 19 BB, 2 HR, 4.30 FIP
17 Billy Burns OF 25 MLB 384 PAs, 100 wRC+, 23 SB, 4.9% BB, 14.6% Ks, 1.4 fWAR
18 Max Muncy 1B/3B 24 AAA 180 PAs, 108 wRC+, 4 HR, 13.3% BB, 25.6% Ks
19 Tyler Ladendorf^ IF/OF 27 AAA On rehab in High-A Stockton (ankle surgery)
20 Daniel Gossett RHP 22 A 22 starts, 4.94 ERA, 118⅓ ip, 95 Ks, 45 BB, 14 HR, 4.57 FIP
21 Bobby Wahl^ RHP 23 AA 24 games, 4.18 ERA, 32⅓ ip, 36 Ks, 14 BB, 2 HR, 3.19 FIP
22 Chris Kohler LHP 20 A- 7 games, 4.94 ERA, 31 ip, 32 Ks, 6 BB, 2 HR, 3.14 FIP
23 Pat Venditte SHP 30 AAA 22 games, 1.63 ERA, 38⅔ ip, 36 Ks, 15 BB, 2 HR, 3.73 FIP
24 Jaycob Brugman OF 23 AA 465 PAs, 98 wRC+, 5 HR, 11.6% BB, 15.9% Ks
25 Brett Graves RHP 22 A 23 starts, 4.89 ERA, 119⅔ ip, 75 Ks, 39 BB, 11 HR, 4.36 FIP
NR Bruce Maxwell C 24 AA 323 PAs, 84 wRC+, 2 HR, 9.9% BB, 14.2% Ks
NR Ryon Healy 3B/1B 23 AA 443 PAs, 110 wRC+, 9 HR, 6.1% BB, 13.5% Ks
NR Branden Kelliher RHP 19 N/A Extended spring training in Arizona
NR Dylan Covey^ RHP 23 A+ 22 starts, 3.93 ERA, 116⅔ ip, 72 Ks, 40 BB, 12 HR, 5.02 FIP
NR Sandber Pimentel 1B 20 A 404 PAs, 116 wRC+, 12 HR, 11.6% BB, 22.3% Ks
TR Sean Manaea LHP 23 AA 3 starts, 2.89 ERA, 18⅔ ip, 22 Ks, 6 BB, 3 HR, 4.01 FIP
TR Daniel Mengden RHP 22 A+ 4 starts, 3.18 ERA, 22⅔ ip, 25 Ks, 3 BB, 3 HR, 3.80 FIP
TR Casey Meisner RHP 20 A+ 2 starts, 5.40 ERA, 8⅓ ip, 5 Ks, 5 BB, 0 HR, 4.36 FIP
TR Aaron Brooks RHP 25 MLB 3 starts, 71 ERA+, 16 ip, 14 Ks, 3 BB, 2 HR, 0.2 fWAR
TR Jacob Nottingham C 20 A+ 85 PAs, 74 wRC+, 1 HR, 8.2% BB, 18.8% ks
DR Richie Martin SS 20 A- 146 PAs, 134 wRC+, 2 HR, 13.7% BB, 20.5% Ks
DR Mikey White SS 21 A 56 PAs, 6 wRC+, 1 2B, 3.6% BB, 25.0% Ks
DR Skye Bolt CF 21 A- 131 PAs, 88 wRC+, 2 HR, 9.2% BB, 23.7% Ks
DR Kevin Duchene LHP 21 A- 8 games, 4.84 ERA, 22⅓ ip, 18 Ks, 9 BB, 2 HR, 4.30 FIP
DR Bubba Derby RHP 21 A- 8 games, 0.76 ERA, 13⅔ ip, 26 Ks, 6 BB, 1 HR, 2.52 FIP