Athletics

How A's Matt Chapman picks Alex Bregman's brain, tries to make him laugh

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AP

How A's Matt Chapman picks Alex Bregman's brain, tries to make him laugh

Matt Chapman has made his way into the best third baseman in baseball conversation -- unfortunately, the All-Star votes aren't mirroring that ... for now. 

If you like to debate -- and I know you do -- about the subject, Colorado Rockies' Nolan Arenado and Houston Astros' Alex Bregman without a doubt are brought into the conversation as the two hot corner men in the game. And it turns out, they each have mutual respect for each other. The even pick one another's brains. 

"[Bregman] asks me questions about defense a lot -- I try to help him out, but he has a pretty good idea of what he wants to do -- he's such a smart baseball player," Chapman said on "The Jim Rome Show" on Wednesday. "I try to pick his brain about how he is in the box and what he thinks about in the box and what pitches he hunts."

Chapman knows the two have very different swings. Bregman has a tendency to be more compact while Chapman's is a bit longer.

"I try to just see what his approach is. I feel like when he gets in the batter's box he knows exactly what he wants to do. I don't see him out of control very often and he doesn't strike out very much." 

"I try to help him with anything I can -- maybe I just make him laugh."

Arenado, another favorite of Rome's, said even he himself wasn't as good of a third baseman as Chapman. 

That's a hell of a compliment from someone whose résumé includes four All-Star selections, six Gold Glove Awards and two Platinum Glove Awards. 

Chapman also was asked about the successful campaign the A's had last year detailing the ups and downs of a season that ended too soon.

"When nobody expected anything out of us -- to be able to do what we did, was pretty cool." 

Still, it was a contrasting experience from the regular season to those later months.

"There's definitely a big difference -- I mean yes and no -- it's a big difference from the preparation, the things around it, and probably the feeling inside before the game," Chapman explained. "You know, definitely a little more emphasis on the game. "After my first at-bat, I felt like it slowed down a bit for me. It was a lot of fun -- I wish it wasn't so short lived."

And short-lived it was indeed. Just one game would bring the team's 97-win season to an end. A game that was difficult from the get-go. 

"Going into Yankee Stadium was tough," he said.

[RELATED: How Hendricks became bullpen star after being DFA'd]

The Yankees had home-field advantage and got off to a fast start in the American League Wild Card, grabbing a 7-2 win.

"But I think we can look back and be proud of what we accomplished, and learn a lot from that game and maybe chip back a little bit more in a playoff game," Chapman explained. "I think we learned how to handle those emotions."

Why Bob Melvin has sky-high expectations for A's before 2020 season

Why Bob Melvin has sky-high expectations for A's before 2020 season

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's reported to spring training on time Monday morning for the preseason’s first full-squad engagement. This group, as assembled, is stacked.

It doesn’t take advanced stats experts to see the 2020 crew is loaded with talent, depth and the superstars required to improve upon back-to-back 97-win seasons. That’s even true in an improved AL West and at a point on the calendar where hope springs eternal.

Manager Bob Melvin was quick to point to another reason for extreme optimism this season.

It starts with the A's superstars setting a proper tone throughout the organization. Their work ethic, Melvin said, proves contagious.

“We have a bunch of guys like that, whether it’s Matt Olson or Matt Chapman or Marcus Semien, those guys set the tone for how we do things around here,” Melvin said Monday morning. “When you have younger players coming up or new players coming in and they see how our top guys work, they have no choice to work the same way.

"It’s great when your best players are the hardest workers.”

Those players can absolutely mash. That was clear during the first full-squad workout. Several have been around taking swings in recent days but seeing so many established veterans alternating through the cages around Lew Wolff Training Complex certainly creates belief the A's can score with anybody in 2020. Pair that with a legit frontline starting rotation and All-Star closer Liam Hendricks and even Melvin can see a clear path to great things this season.

Melvin has been around a long time and managed a lot of good baseball teams. His expectations for this group are sky high. He made that clear in his opening speech to the full squad here in major league camp.

“We always discuss in our first meeting what our goals and expectations are,” Melvin said. “We try to keep those to ourselves but, when you have two seasons with 97 wins and 97 wins and you feel like we have a better team this year, yeah I think our expectations are pretty high.”

[RELATED: Why Canha rightfully was named to MLB.com's All-Underrated Team]

Vegas oddsmakers set the over-under line at 89.5 wins for these A's, a significant sum that would put them back in serious contention for a third straight postseason berth. They’ll be gunning for a division title after two straight wild-card berths where the season died out in a one-game playoff.

This largely established group is focused on staying healthy and intact for when the games actually count. That doesn’t mean they’re content to sit back this spring and wait for good times to roll. The grind continues for the entire team as it works to become more versatile.

The A's are placing emphasis on situational hitting this spring, possible going against the grain for a team that as historically liked walks and big blasts.

That will be important in working through offensive slumps like the A’s experienced near last season’s end.

“You can bludgeon teams at times, but there will be times where we go through offensive droughts as a team,” Melvin said. “The defense is always going to be there, but if we can win some games situationally by getting guys over and getting guys in by putting some focus on that, the team will be better because of it.

"We’ll continue to emphasize that.”

Why A's Mark Canha rightfully was named to MLB.com's All-Underrated Team

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USATSI

Why A's Mark Canha rightfully was named to MLB.com's All-Underrated Team

Mark Canha, like many A's players, quietly fell under the radar last season. The recently-turned 31-year-old hit a career-high 26 home runs, yet nobody seemed to mention his name. 

One person, at least, did notice. MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince named Canha to his All-Underrated Team going into the 2020 season. Canha is Castrovince's center fielder, though he mostly will play in left for the A's with Ramon Laureano healthy. 

Canha actually played four positions in 2019: 56 games in center, 27 games in right field, 15 games at first base and 10 games in left. The Cal alum also served as Oakland's DH in 16 games. 

Along with a career-best in homers, Canha posted career highs along his .273/.396/.517 slash line. He also produced a .913 OPS and 145 OPS+.

Canha's versatility once again will be key for Bob Melvin's squad this season. Melvin has a plethora of outfield options in Canha, Laureano, Stephen Piscotty, Robbie Grossman, Chad Pinder and more. 

[RELATED: Manfred believes Fiers did 'service' revealing Astros scandal]

Perhaps none of the above bring more to the table than Canha, though. 

As the A's look to move past the AL Wild Card Game this year, the San Jose native figures to be a reliable asset yet again.