It only took about two weeks for Matt Chapman to figure out Double-A pitching. After destroying High-A last year with the Stockton Ports, and then leading the A's in homers this spring in the Cactus League, he notched his fourth long ball of the young season on Thursday in a 9-2 victory over San Antonio.
Chapman now leads the Hounds with a 1.064 OPS. After starting out 4-for-28, he's 8-for-15 over his last four games with three homers and two doubles. Pitchers are taking notice, too, as he has received two of the seven intentional walks issued in the entire Texas League so far.
However, despite all that, it's still important for us to exercise some patience here. Seeing a prospect rake this hard against his peers makes it tempting to want to see him in the bigs, and coincidentally Oakland's third baseman (Danny Valencia) just went on the disabled list on Thursday. But destroying Double-A pitching for a week doesn't necessarily mean a youngster is ready to move up to MLB. The best thing for everyone is to let him enjoy extended success at his current level, and then start thinking about if/when to move him up to Triple-A if he's still breaking the league after a few months.
But dang. The more the 23-year-old continues to produce, the more we can get excited about hopefully seeing him at some point in 2017. And remember, aside from all this talk about his hitting, his real strength might be his elite defense at the hot corner. Perhaps the sting of losing Josh Donaldson will only end up lasting for two years.
The rest of the game
Chapman's not the only player on the team, though, so let's take a look at the rest of this game. Daniel Mengden made his third start of the year, looking to build on the two gems he spun in his previous outings. The right-hander wasn't quite as sharp this time, but he still produced a quality outing overall: 6 ip, 2 runs, 4 Ks, 3 BB, 5 hits.
Sam Bragg came on in relief, bringing with him the 29.08 ERA he racked up during two atrocious attempts at stretching out to be a starter (that was 14 earned runs in 4⅓ innings). He finally got a positive outing under his belt, tossing two scoreless frames with four strikeouts and a walk to lower his ERA to 19.89. Baby steps! If anyone is going to have that number as their ERA, at least it's an A's player, as 1989 was a pretty good year for us. Bragg isn't a big-name prospect, but his numbers in High-A Stockton last year caught my attention -- in particular, 74 ip, 92 Ks, 23 BB (that's a 30.1% strikeout rate, 11.2 K/9, and 4.0 K/BB). Not every reliever with big strikeout numbers will be the next Ryan Dull, rising unexpectedly up the ranks without missing a beat, but those kinds of K rates are a good place to start if you're looking for minor league relievers to keep in the corner of your eye.
The real story was the lineup, though, banging out 16 hits en route to nine runs. The first run came in the 2nd when Chapman led off with a double and later scored, the next run came in the 4th when Chapman led off with a single and later scored, the ... okay, wait, I said this would be about more than just Chapman. In the 5th, with two on and nobody out, Ryon Healy launched an opposite-field shot for his third homer of the year (ignore the video's title, it's Healy's homer):
... and then Chapman followed with a dinger of his own to go back-to-back with Healy. Jeez, Matt, let the rest of the class have a turn, will ya? (He came up during yet another rally in the 6th, but this time San Antonio simply gave him an intentional walk. He finished 3-for-4.)
Key hitting prospects: Season numbers
Matt Chapman: .279/.436/.628, 4 HR, 10 BB, 13 Ks, 2 SB (55 PAs)
Ryon Healy: .308/.379/.615, 3 HR, 6 BB, 10 Ks (58 PAs)
Jaycob Brugman: .261/.346/.413, 2 HR, 5 BB, 8 Ks, 2 SB (52 PAs)
Franklin Barreto: .152/.188/.239, 1 HR, 2 BB, 15 Ks, 3 SB (48 PAs)
Keep it up, fellas.
Key pitching prospects: Season numbers
Daniel Mengden: 3 starts, 1.00 ERA, 18 ip, 20 Ks, 9 BB, 0 HR
Raul Alcantara: 3 starts, 5.14 ERA, 14 ip, 16 Ks, 8 BB, 2 HR
Dylan Covey: 2 starts, 4.15 ERA, 8⅔ ip, 9 Ks, 7 BB, 1 HR
Trey Cochran-Gill: 4 games, 0.00 ERA, 8 ip, 8 Ks, 0 BB
Corey Walter: 4 games, 2.45 ERA, 7⅓ ip, 9 Ks, 2 BB, 0 HR
Sam Bragg: 3 games, 19.89 ERA, 6⅓ ip, 5 Ks, 6 BB, 5 HR
Bobby Wahl: 1 game, 0.00 ERA, 1 ip, 2 Ks, 0 BB
It took three starts, but Mengden finally has an ERA after allowing a couple runs. In yesterday's update I lamented the shaky walk totals of Alcantara and Covey, and in fairness Mengden also has some work to do to cut down on those free passes. But it's hard to argue with just about everything else he's doing so far.
All four teams are in action Friday.
Triple-A Nashville: 5:35 p.m., Sean Manaea vs. Colorado Springs
Double-A Midland: 5:05 p.m., Joel Seddon vs. San Antonio
High-A Stockton: 7:10 p.m., Zack Erwin vs. Inland Empire
Single-A Beloit: 4:30 p.m., James Naile vs. Burlington
It's Manaea day! That's obviously the game to watch out of these four. But all four of these pitchers are worth looking at. Seddon is in the same boat as Bragg, with a bloated ERA after two early stinkers. Naile usually piggybacks with lefty Evan Manarino, so expect to see him in long relief for Beloit.