Surprise 1: Matt Chapman
There’s been no shortage of coverage of Matt Chapman’s impressive spring. The 2014 first-round draft pick has been swinging a hot bat since the start of the Cactus League, hitting .286/.354/.690, including five homers and just five strikeouts. In addition to those numbers, he’s made some excellent stops at third base.
Chapman has looked better than many of the major leaguers, but it’s important to remember that he will only be 23 years old this season, and he’s only played 134 professional games – including 80 last season with High-A Stockton, and 50 in 2014 with Low-A Beloit. That means that while his numbers might be impressive, he’s not yet ready to be a full-time major league infielder. His .907 OPS in High-A sounds impressive, but he only posted a .672 OPS with Beloit the previous season – and that’s the extent of his career.
Chapman did get himself on the radar of the Athletics’ staff, however, which is a good first step. As the Athletics’ sixth-ranked prospect and a 25th-overall draft pick, there’s a lot of weight resting on his shoulders. A strong season in Double-A this year would likely warrant a September call-up if the team is out of the race, but it’s hard to see Chapman moving faster than that. The A’s aren’t known for rushing prospects, and he’s got plenty of time before he truly hits his prime. He’ll also be facing better competition, and playing in a pitcher’s league, so it’s not guaranteed that this spring success will translate to an outstanding Double-A campaign.
Regardless of how his season turns out, Chapman was not expected to turn heads in camp the way he did, and it’s a testament to his talent that he’s been able to hang on longer than many of the other prospects who spent time with the Athletics this spring. On a team that has historically struggled with the draft, Chapman really exceeded all expectations.
Next: Surprise 2: A Rough Start for a Veteran Starter