Matt Chapman

Chapman earns spot on Baseball America's All-Rookie team

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Chapman earns spot on Baseball America's All-Rookie team

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.”

Beane: Signing A's young core long-term is already being discussed

Beane: Signing A's young core long-term is already being discussed

OAKLAND — Judging from the comments of Billy Beane and David Forst during their season-ending press conference Monday, it’s obvious the A’s top two baseball officials are pleased with the long-range direction their club is headed.

That plan definitely includes locking up some of their young cornerstone players with long-term contracts at some point, and Beane says those conversations already are happening.

“First, we want to make sure we’re identifying the right guys,” said Beane, Oakland’s executive VP of baseball operations. “I’ll just say it’s probably a conversation we’ve already started. We’ve had that discussion already. It’s going to be important for us to do it.”

Surely such talk is music to the ears of A’s fans who have grown accustomed to watching the team’s top players either get traded or sign with other teams in free agency. Signing multiple young players to long-term deals would represent a shift in organizational philosophy.

But that’s exactly what A’s president Dave Kaval, the front office and manager Bob Melvin have been talking about throughout this past season — there’s a commitment that things will be run differently and the A’s will try to retain some of their best talent moving forward.

However, the execution will be tricky given the team isn’t planning for its new ballpark to open until 2023, and that’s assuming no hurdles delay the project. Beane talks about the need to have a competitive team stocked with homegrown players ready by the time the A’s move into that ballpark. But how can the team start making a financial commitment to players when that anticipated ballpark is still so far down the road?

“When you’re talking about building a club for a stadium that’s six years off, and if you’re talking about locking them up, then you’re looking to have to lock them up for a long time,” Beane said. “So that’s sort of the trick and the balance that we have to address this offseason, if we’re going to embark on that.

“I think right now we’ve just got to operate that (the ballpark) is going to happen (on time). The other option is one we’ve done my entire career here, which is constant churn. I’m churned out.”

The young players that figure to warrant consideration for long-term deals include, but aren’t relegated to, designated hitter Ryon Healy, third baseman Matt Chapman, first baseman Matt Olson and utility man Chad Pinder. And it’s not like they all have to be inked right away.

Healy, Olson and Pinder won’t even become eligible for salary arbitration until the winter before the 2020 season. They’ll be due for free agency heading into the 2023 season, and Chapman’s timeline is a year behind those three. On the flip side, the earlier the A’s can get guys locked up, the more team-friendly those deals are likely to be from a cost standpoint.

It’s the young core of position-player talent, and the belief that other top prospects (pitchers and hitters) aren’t far away from the bigs, that drives the A’s optimism. A 17-7 finish put a positive spin on a 75-87 overall record and another last-place finish in the AL West.

One area the A’s will certainly look to address this offseason is their starting rotation, which could use a veteran innings-eater. But Beane and Forst were pleased with how several of their young prospects emerged and complemented productive veterans such as Khris Davis, Jed Lowrie and Matt Joyce.

“We have a long way to go, but anytime you have young players, you have a chance to get better,” Forst said. “I don’t think we put any ceiling on that. I think we wait and see where it goes. But these guys believe in themselves. They have a manager that believes in them, and they have talent. So all of those things go a long way toward getting better.”

Chapman defends ejection: A's deserve 'to be respected by our opponents'

Chapman defends ejection: A's deserve 'to be respected by our opponents'

OAKLAND — Some statements are made simply by the way one plays the game.

Others require more direct action.

A’s rookie third baseman Matt Chapman made the decision to confront Angels catcher Juan Graterol over what he thought were unfair accusations of A’s hitters trying to steal signs.

It wound up earning him his first career ejection in the fourth inning of an eventual A’s 3-1 victory Wednesday. Although Chapman said he regretted not being available over the final five innings at the Coliseum, no way was he regretting the intentions that led him to jaw at Graterol as he stepped into the box in the fourth.

“As you can see on video, the catcher kept staring at every single hitter as they were digging into the box,” Chapman said afterward. “That’s not a very comfortable feeling, having the catcher staring at you while you’re digging in the box. It’s a little disrespectful, to be honest.

“… Even though we are a young group of guys, I feel like we deserve to be treated just like anybody else in the big leagues and be respected by our opponents. I did it out of respect for my teammates and respect for myself.”

Chapman, Mark Canha and Khris Davis all deny the A’s peaking back to steal signs from the catcher. As could be predicted in such controversies, there was a much different story being told in the Angels clubhouse.

“We have video on what they do,” Angels starter Tyler Skaggs said. “We know what they're all about. If they need to look at signs to hit, then it is what it is. I can't control anything out there. … I can see it from the mound. It’s very frustrating.”

For the record, stealing signs isn’t illegal but is considered a breach of baseball etiquette. The Red Sox reportedly may face penalties for stealing signs from the Yankees, but that would be for incorporating the use of electronic technology to do so.

Canha claims he saw Graterol giving rookie Chad Pinder a hard time about possibly stealing signs. Then Canha and Graterol had words about the same thing in the second inning, as Graterol jogged out to talk with Skaggs. (Worth noting: Canha says he’s always felt the Angels don’t care for him, and that the Rangers have accused him of stealing signs before).

“I think (Graterol) thought I was trying to peak, which I’ve never done,” Canha said. “When he did it to Pinder, I was like, ‘That’s just a Scioscia/Angels/Graterol tactic to make younger players feel uncomfortable.’”

Who was right and wrong Wednesday isn’t so much the issue. From the A’s standpoint, the takeaway is that a young player such as Chapman took a stand. Granted, it got him tossed from a game that wasn’t even halfway finished yet, at a time the A’s were trying to snap an eight-game losing streak. He’ll have to use judgement moving forward on when it’s right to take such a bold stand, and whether doing so is worth the risk of getting ejected.

But if the A’s do indeed move forward with this current pack of young players as their core, leaders will have to emerge from that pack. Chapman seemed to be trying to take the reigns with his actions Wednesday.

The move was appreciated by Davis, his veteran teammate.

“Chap’s not gone let that happen,” Davis said of Graterol’s accusations. “I’m happy he stuck up for us … He might be a rookie, but one day he’s gonna be a veteran and just lead the way.”

Canha said he appreciated Chapman’s gesture, but added that he told the rookie: “We’d rather have (you) in the game than sticking up for me.”

Oh yeah, the A’s did halt their longest losing streak in five years. And they got a stellar six-plus innings from lefty Sean Manaea in doing so. But this juncture of their young team’s development is about so much more than box scores and final stats.

It’s about how chemistry develops and leaders emerge. The fourth inning perhaps revealed a glimpse of that Wednesday.