The Oakland Athletics’ season may have been disappointing, but their top prospects put on a show in the minors during 2015. Matt Chapman, the A’s fifth-overall prospect, was no exception. He had an excellent year, hitting just .250 but posting a .907 OPS with the High-A Stockton Ports.
Chapman is a third baseman by trade, selected in the first round of the 2014 Amateur Draft. The 25th-overall pick came out of Cal State Fullerton, where he hit .312 during his junior year before the draft. He wasn’t known for his power in college, but he’s really worked at becoming more of a home run hitter since being drafted.
Although Chapman’s average hasn’t been as high as it was in college – likely a side effect of his focus on power – there are plenty of things to like about the young slugger. For instance, he hit 23 home runs in 80 games this season, and he walked 39 times – giving him a walk rate over 11 percent. His 22.4 percent strikeout is on the high side, so much like fellow prospect Matt Olson, Chapman will need to make more consistent contact. The home runs and walks are great, but he averaged nearly a strikeout per game, with 79 punch outs this season.
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Chapman is by far the best third base prospect in the system, and he’s considered the fourth-best third base prospect in all of baseball. Although he dropped from third to fifth in the A’s overall rankings this year, it was due to trades that brought two fantastic players to the Oakland Athletics’ system, not through any fault of his own.
Chapman spent the entire 2015 season in High-A, but it seems likely that he’ll start 2016 with Double-A Midland. In his first professional season last year, Chapman actually got to join the Double-A roster while they were in the playoffs, but he only recorded one (hitless) game. A move to the next level would certainly challenge him, but the A’s may also consider letting him develop his power a bit more at High-A before sending him to the pitcher-friendly Texas League.
Overall, Chapman showed a lot of improvement from 2014, when he posted a .672 OPS in 50 games with the A’s Single-A squad. The most notable difference is Chapman’s increased walk rate, from 3.5 percent last season to 11.1 percent this year – not an easy feat for a young player. He seems to be progressing nicely, and it shows that he’s able to take the team’s suggestions – such as trying to tap into his power – and do what is asked of him. His defense is excellent, so if he can cut back on the strikeouts, he should fly through the remainder of the system. The A’s may be set at third base for now, but by the time they have an opening, Chapman should be ready to step in.