A’s third baseman Matt Chapman was part of select company Tuesday, honored by Baseball America on its 2017 All-Rookie Team.
The team combines rookies from both leagues, and just one player is chosen at each position around the diamond, along with five starting pitchers and one reliever. Chapman is part of a star-studded 2017 class that includes Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, a strong American League MVP candidate, and Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger, the strong favorite for NL Rookie of the Year.
Chapman took over third base duties for Oakland immediately upon his call-up June 15 and hit .234 with 14 home runs and 40 RBI in 86 games while playing standout defense. From the All-Star break on, he led major league rookies in doubles (21) and extra-base hits (37).
Chapman began producing highlight-reel defensive plays almost immediately, showing off a rocket arm, excellent hands and terrific range that helped him navigate the Coliseum’s vast foul territory. The 34 double plays he turned are the most by a third baseman in major league history with fewer than 100 games, and that total was fifth-most in the AL despite Chapman playing in just over a half-season of games.
His defense rated very high across several sabermetric categories. Among AL third basemen with at least 700 innings played, Chapman led the league in Defensive Runs Saved with 19. Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria was a distant second with 11.
Whether Chapman’s reputation spread quickly enough to warrant Gold Glove consideration remains to be seen. Coaches and managers vote for the award during the season, with a sabermetric statistical component also factored in. Winners are announced in November.
The A’s knew they could expect excellent defense from Chapman, but general manager David Forst was pleasantly surprised by the rookie’s bat.
“I think we knew when we brought him up, though maybe it was a little sooner than we planned, that his glove would sort of keep him afloat,” Forst said. “I think the bigger surprise was how quickly his bat kind of leveled off. He’s going to swing and miss, but the extra base hits, the homers, the fact he performed the way he did offensively was really nice to see.”