Editor’s note: I know this happened a few days ago, but I was unavailable over the weekend and I’m still playing catch-up. Can’t not do a post about this!
The 2019 MLB All-Star rosters were announced on Sunday, and third baseman Matt Chapman was chosen by his fellow players to represent the Oakland A’s. He is the A’s lone rep for now, as a reserve behind American League starting third baseman Alex Bregman of the Astros. Click here to see the full rosters.
This is the first All-Star berth for Chapman, coming in his second full MLB season. The 26-year-old already cemented his defensive reputation at third base last summer, winning literally every fielding award that exists in the majors, and he’s been among the 20 or so best hitters in the sport since the beginning of 2018. Last fall he finished seventh in the voting for AL MVP, and he’s in the middle of putting together another similarly elite campaign.
Chapman, 2019: .266/.352/.545, 137 wRC+, 21 HR, 10.8% BB, 19.5% Ks
That wRC+ mark ranks 22nd in all of MLB, and the dingers are tied for 14th. Both numbers are also tops among the A’s everyday players, though Mark Canha has a slightly higher wRC+ in part-time duty.
On the other side of the ball, Chapman leads all third basemen with +10 Defensive Runs Saved, ahead of Miami’s Brian Anderson (+9) and double the AL runner-up David Fletcher of the Angels (+5). Anderson is the only other 3B in the majors who is above +6 DRS. As for Ultimate Zone Rating, Chapman’s score of +4.8 trails only Nolan Arenado of the Rockies (+5.8), and once again is nearly double the AL runner-up Rio Ruiz of the Orioles (+2.6).
Put it all together, and Chapman isn’t just one of the best third basemen in the majors, but rather one of the best players overall. His 4.3 bWAR ranks fourth among all MLB position players, while his 3.6 fWAR places him sixth. Factor in pitchers and he’s sixth in bWAR and eighth in fWAR.
Both of those WAR marks edge out Bregman, who was voted in by the fans as the starting 3B for the AL. Of course, Bregman has won a ring as part of Houston’s juggernaut team, and he also earned All-Star Game MVP honors last summer, so it’s no wonder he got the nod between his extra name power and also slightly better offensive stats. Both players clearly belong on this All-Star squad, and you could flip a coin to choose a deserving starter.
Chapman’s selection continues a long line of quality third basemen representing Oakland in the Midsummer Classic. Sal Bando made four All-Star teams, in 1969 and then again in 1972-74 during the team’s three straight championship years. Wayne Gross followed in 1977, and then Carney Lansford in 1988 when the A’s were once again the best in the AL. Eric Chavez never did make an All-Star team, standing as arguably the biggest career snub in the sport’s history, but then Josh Donaldson started the game in 2014. Click here to see the A’s full All-Star history.
Upon hearing the news, Chapman responded with the usual thoughtful and humble personality that fans have come to expect from Chaptain America.
Congrats Chappy— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) July 1, 2019
(➡️ @subaru_usa) pic.twitter.com/MccGmwEhNq
And of course, his teammates were excited.
The moment BoMel told the team before today’s game. #RootedInOakland pic.twitter.com/MuoNIje26L— Oakland A's (@Athletics) June 30, 2019
Congrats to Chapman on a well-deserved All-Star berth! May it be the first of many.
The 2019 All-Star Game will take place in Cleveland on Tue., July 9, at 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time. It will be televised on Fox.
It seems incredible that this is Chapman’s first nod, but it makes sense. He didn’t debut until mid-June in 2017, so he wasn’t around in time to make it that year. Then in 2018, a couple weeks on the injured list in June got in the way of his candidacy, and anyway his true greatness came in the second half of the season (116 wRC+ first half, then 162 second half). Now his reputation is catching up with his superstar talent and production, and there’s every reason to expect he’ll be a mainstay at this event for years to come.
Who else didn’t make it?
There were three other names being tossed around as possible candidates to represent the A’s. The main one was starting pitcher Frankie Montas, who seemed like a lock to make it before he was popped for PEDs and suspended for effectively the rest of the season.
Catcher Josh Phegley also got some attention for his breakout year, though he didn’t quite stack up enough numbers to get the call. Gary Sanchez (NYY) and James McCann (CHW) were both good choices and there’s not really an argument to be made for Phegs above either of them, even despite his strong production for Oakland.
However, shortstop Marcus Semien does qualify as a snub. His 3.5 bWAR ranks 10th among MLB position players, and his 3.1 fWAR ties him for 14th. His 112 wRC+ has been fueled by excellent plate discipline, a good OBP, and solid power, making him an effective leadoff hitter for a winning team. And his defense, once the worst in the sport, is now among the best, as he leads all shortstops in UZR (+6.8) and ranks seventh in DRS (+6), backed up by similarly great marks last season.
However, it was admittedly tough to find a spot for Semien on this year’s AL squad, especially among a group of superior hitters. Jorge Polanco of the Twins was deservedly voted in by the fans, in the midst of a monster season (for a first-place team) that has him at least on par with Semien in WAR terms. Francisco Lindor, while not quite replicating his MVP-caliber campaign from 2018, is still playing similarly well to Semien on top of having massive name power and being a key star for the Indians, who are hosting this year’s game. And Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox was later added as an injury replacement, and he’s got great numbers to go along with his Boston name power.
Perhaps the AL team didn’t need a third 1B in Jose Abreu, who isn’t even having that great of a season for a mediocre Chicago club that already had two other reps in McCann and pitcher Lucas Giolito. Or maybe the roster didn’t need seven outfielders to go with its two DHs, such that Austin Meadows could have given way to another infielder — he’s hitting slightly better than Semien, but has largely been a DH this year. But the fact remains that there are already three deserving shortstops on tap, and so it’s understandable that Semien is left out despite also being deserving.
And so a 47-39 A’s team, which currently sits in playoff position with a tie for the second Wild Card, will send just one rep to the All-Star Game, unless there are any more last-minute replacements. At least this time it makes sense, between Montas’ suspension costing Oakland a second clear lock, and Semien being squeezed out by a legitimate logjam.