Oakland Athletics: How much better can Matt Chapman be?

Oakland Athletics’ third baseman Matt Chapman has had an impressive start to his career. How much better can he get?

In just three seasons, Oakland Athletics’ third baseman Matt Chapman has made an impact upon the league. He has easily been the best defensive third baseman in the American League since his debut, and may have even surpassed Nolan Arenado as the best defensive player at the hot corner. In his time in the majors, Chapman has been credited with 40 runs saved at third, a number surpassed by only Arenado, who had an extra half a season to reach that mark.

Chapman has also been excellent with the bat, a valuable power hitter in the middle of the A’s lineup. Over his 1612 plate appearances, he has produced a .257/.341/.500 batting line, hitting 101 doubles and 74 homers. His home run total has increased every year as Chapman has continued to blossom into a star.

On Tuesday, the A’s third baseman turned 27 years old. In theory, he is about to enter his prime, as the peak for a ballplayer is considered to be from 27 years of age until they turn 33 years old. As such, it may be that the A’s have not seen the best of Chapman just yet.

But how much better can Chapman really be? While his 126 OPS+ and 36 homers in 2019 were impressive, those numbers could actually improve. Despite hitting 12 fewer homers in 2018, Chapman posted a better OPS+, 137, over the course of the season.

A part of that decline last year can be attributed to his batting average on balls in play. Back in 2018, Chapman posted a .338 batting average on balls in play; in 2019, that mark fell to .270. However, Chapman hit the ball better last season, raising his hard hit percentage by 2.1 points.

Projections for the 2020 season were all in roughly the same ballpark for Chapman. He was expected to produce a batting average of approximately .250, and anywhere from 33 to 35 homers and doubles. Those numbers may actually be low.

While it is difficult to imagine that Chapman will replicate his .338 babip once again, it is not outside the realm of probability that he approaches the league average mark of .298. If that happens, Chapman could end up closer to a .260 hitter while potentially surpassing the 40 home run mark. In fact, that could be the type of player that Chapman becomes during his prime, a potential threat for a home run title who can also play incredible defense at the hot corner.

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Matt Chapman is just about to enter his prime. The best may be yet to come for the Oakland Athletics third baseman.

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