Wars were waged over the potential of Oakland A's minor league third baseman Matt Chapman.
Okay, not actual wars. Still, there has been plenty of talk over the summer months about who Matt Chapman is as a hitter and what he might become as he reaches closer to the big leagues. I'm back from a two week trip through the south to share why I'm so excited for the news that Chapman was promoted to triple-A Nashville.
Big news on the #Athletics prospect front: Matt Chapman has been promoted from Midland to Nashville. He leads the TL in homeruns with 29.— Melissa Lockard (@oakclubhouse) August 16, 2016
What We Know
Chapman is really good at three important things: hitting home runs, drawing walks, and playing defense. After being the 25th overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft Chapman had an underwhelming start to his professional career. Nevertheless he was promoted to double-A in time to join the Midland Rockhounds for the playoffs. The following season in high-A Chapman showed promise with the bat and swatted 23 home runs in just 80 games and posted a triple slash line of .250/.341/.566. In double-A this season Chapman has maintained his elite power stroke and continued to draw walks in more than 11% of his plate appearances and at just 23-years old started receiving prospect buzz around the industry.
What We Don't Know
It has yet to be identified if Chapman will be able to make enough contact to be a major league regular. His 29.2 K% is higher than his 2015 mark by 7% and as a result he has nearly struck out 150 times already.
Why I'm Optimistic
Through April Chapman was on fire. His OPS was .980 and his K% was down around 21. He was starting to look like a future star. The league then caught up to him and he struck out nearly 40 percent of the time in May. He slumped in June and watched his OPS for the month dip below .700. The he caught fire again. Since July Chapman has posted a .948 OPS, 164 wRC+, and .333 ISO. The best part is that since July his walk% is 12.6 and his K% is a much more manageable 24.7.
I'm optimistic because we already knew he could hit dingers with the best of them and draw his fair share of walks. The defense has always been good, even when he has been asked to play shortstop. But a Matt Chapman that doesn't strike out 30 percent of the time? That's a different Matt Chapman. It was clear the league adjusted to him after a scorching spring. The mark of a true professional is someone who can respond with his own adjustments and it appears Chapman has done that as evidenced by his decline in strikeouts.
I know you can't just wipe away the near-40% strikeout rate from May, but let's just say Chapman is closer the guy who strikes out less than a quarter of the time, like he's been since July. Here is a short list of major leaguers with walk rates around 10%, strikeout rates around 24%, and an ISO around .200:
Jake Lamb, Nick Castellanos, Todd Frazier, and Travis Shaw.
That's not bad company. It's also a wide spectrum of outcomes, one in which I believe Chapman realistically fits into.
The picture is still unclear with regards to Chapman's role with the Nashville Sounds but I can't imagine that he's being promoted to share a job. The early indications are that Renato Nunez will be moved off of third base. This also begs the question of when he'll make his major league debut. Could that be sometime in 2017? Barring a ridiculous hot streak from Chapman as 2016 concludes I don't expect him to reach Oakland until very late 2017.