Matt Chapman ranks sky-high among the American League’s best third baseman. The A’s All-Star has won two straight platinum gloves, and was named 2018’s best defensive player regardless of position.
Oh, and the 27-year old can hit a little bit, too.
Chapman slashed .249/.346/.506 in 2019, with 36 home runs and 90 RBI, though his production took a significant dip in the second half. That’s still a quality offensive season, but certainly not in the AL’s elite tier. Still, his combination of offense and stellar glovework left him sixth in MVP voting.
It was three places back of teammate Marcus Semien, a shortstop who had a career year in every phase of the game.
Chapman left that excellent campaign wanting more, especially after hitting just .178 in September and October. He tinkered some with his swing before spring training, with some minor changes he believes will produce better and more consistent results.
“I think it was more mechanical than anything,” Chapman told MLB.com this spring. “I was doing a few things that weren’t giving me the best chance for success,” Chapman said. “I tried to just clean up those few things and I think I’m going to have a better baseline for this season.”
Those who have seen it extensively have great confidence Chapman’s bat will produce even greater dividends.
“The sky is the limit for him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said back in February. “He’s one of the top players in the league and really probably hasn’t had the offensive season that he would like to have at this point. He’s just going to keep getting better. He’s not at his ceiling right now.
“I’ve said often he’ll be in the MVP conversation for years to come.”
Will that be this year, in an odd 60-game season compacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic?
There’s no reason why not. Winning the AL MVP will be difficult as long as Mike Trout’s around. There are several worthy candidates in the junior circuit beyond the 28-year old three-time MVP, including a few players on his own team.
Chapman could well get hot early, scorch through a short season and carry the A’s to the playoffs. That’s undoubtedly within the realm of possibility for someone who felt more comfortable with his swing before baseball hit pause over the current public health crisis.
His defense will never rest, shining above the rest in terms of range, arm strength, dynamic playmaking ability and overall consistency.
Spending a solid chunk of his time in the Nos. 2 or 3 spot in the order, typically in front of Matt Olson, should help him get pitches to hit and, if he makes the most of opportunities during this 200-meter sprint of a season, he could be bringing home more than just a defensive award in 2020.