Athletics

Why Matt Chapman, Matt Olson are A's best prospects from the 2010s

Why Matt Chapman, Matt Olson are A's best prospects from the 2010s

The A's have been quiet this offseason. After losing in the AL Wild Card Game the last two seasons, they have their eyes set on winning the division and having an easier road to the World Series. 

There really is a method to their madness, too.

Why haven't the A's made any big moves this offseason? Because they're focused on keeping their core of young stars together for the long term. In the near future, that will start with shortstop Marcus Semien, who is a free agent after next season and is expected to earn nearly $14 million in arbitration this offseason. 

But right behind him are two homegrown stars in Matt Chapman and Matt Olson. MLB.com listed Chapman as Oakland's best prospect success story of the decade, and they're not wrong. However, Olson isn't far behind. 

Looking at Baseball America's list of A's top prospects for the 2010s mostly is nothing more than a sight for sore eyes. Need proof? Here you go. 

2010: Chris Carter
2011: Grant Green
2012: Jarrod Parker
2013: Addison Russell
2014: Addison Russell
2015: Daniel Robertson
2016: Franklin Barreto
2017: Franklin Barreto
2018: A.J. Puk
2019: Jesus Luzardo

The best of the bunch are the last two names. Puk and Luzardo -- whom the A's acquired in a trade with the Washington Nationals in July 2017 -- made their MLB debuts last season and look set for stardom. They are two of the best left-handed pitching prospects in baseball and can lead the A's rotation next season. 

Chapman and Olson both are former first-round draft picks by the A's, and clearly it was a mistake by Baseball America to never have them atop the team's top prospects list. Oakland took Olson with the No. 47 overall pick in the 2012 draft before selecting Chapman at No. 25 two years later. 

Since they made their respective big league debuts, the two Matts have been two of the best players in baseball.

Olson had a short 11-game stint with the A's in 2016 before breaking out in 2017. The powerful first baseman had 23 homers in 79 games in Triple-A for the Nashville Sounds. Somehow, he was even better with the A's. 

The 6-foot-5 lefty smashed 24 long balls in just 59 games with the A's as a rookie. He had a .651 slugging percentage and 1.003 OPS. Since then, Olson followed his rookie year with seasons of 29 and 36 homers. 

Olson has 89 homers and an .862 OPS the last three years for the A's. He also been one of the best defensive first basemen in the league, winning a Gold Glove the past two seasons. The 25-year-old has been worth 12.2 bWAR from 2017 to '19. 

And yet, Chapman has been even better. 

The A's finally have their Josh Donaldson replacement. Chapman debuted for the A's as a 24-year-old in June 2017. He wound up hitting 14 homers in 84 games and gave fans a glimpse of his jaw-dropping defense, 

Even though he didn't come up until halfway through'17, Chapman has been worth an absurd 18.5 bWAR. For comparison sake, Donaldson was worth 16.7 bWAR his first three full seasons with the A's.

Chapman already has finished in the top-seven of AL MVP voting twice, won two Gold Gloves and made his first All-Star team last season. At the plate, he has gone from 14 homers as a rookie to 24 in 2018 and 36 in 2019. 

[RELATED: Eight memorable moments that defined the A's this decade]

Like any team, the A's have swung and missed with a handful of prospects. When it comes to Chapman and Olson, though, they couldn't have asked for anything better. 

Now, they must keep these two stars in Oakland.

Relive three iconic A's victories, performances against rival Astros

Relive three iconic A's victories, performances against rival Astros

Programming note: NBC Sports California will air three classic A’s-Astros games beginning Saturday at 3 p.m. PT.

Since joining the AL West after switching leagues in 2013, the Houston Astros quickly have morphed into one of the A’s most hated rivals.

Those seven seasons have produced plenty of classic matchups, as the clubs finished the season as the division’s top two teams in four of the seven years.

However, the coronavirus outbreak forcing an indefinite suspension upon MLB has robbed teams of getting a chance at revenge on Houston, after the organization was implicated in a nefarious sign-stealing scheme this offseason.

Nevertheless, there's still a way to get your fix, as fans can tune in to NBC Sports California on Saturday afternoon to relive three memorable A’s victories over the Astros.

Lowrie caps comeback -- Sept. 8, 2017

The A’s had their backs against the wall entering the bottom of the seventh inning, trailing Houston 7-3 on a cloudy fall evening in Oakland.

Then Marcus Semien walked to the plate. It took just one swing for the game to be tied at seven as the Bay Area native connected on his third career grand slam. After former A’s outfielder Josh Reddick gave Houston back the lead in the top half, the A’s brought out the power once again. 

Boog Powell led off the bottom half by tying the game with a solo home run, then a few batters later Jed Lowrie brought Semien home to deliver a walk-off win.

The A’s clearly fed off the momentum of that victory, as Oakland went on to sweep the four-game set.

Olson beats Astros -- Aug. 17, 2018

Neck-and-neck in the divisional race, these two adversaries faced off once again at the Oakland Coliseum just under a year later. 

In his 29th career MLB appearance, outfielder Nick Martini was the night’s first hero, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth with an RBI double to bring home Ramon Laureano, who initially was called out before a replay review reversed the ruling.

Slugger Matt Olson came up in the 10th, and lifted a towering shot just over the right-field fence, bringing the A’s to within one game of the AL West lead.

[RELATED: Why Olson's walk-off homer vs. Brewers was so impressive]

A’s offense explodes -- Sept. 10, 2019

A day after the A’s were hammered 15-0 at Minute Maid Park, the A’s returned the favor in a big way with a 21-7 win.

Astros starter Wade Miley lasted just a third of an inning before being relieved, having allowed six runs, all of which came on RBI singles.

Oakland ended up with six total home runs, including two apiece from Olson and young catcher Sean Murphy. It also was the first time in the expansive history of the A’s that the team scored 20 or more runs, had 25 or more hits, and hit at least six home runs in the same contest.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy what likely would have become America’s new greatest pastime this summer: Watching your team beat the Astros.

Chad Pinder, A's players will feel 'residual effects' when MLB returns

Chad Pinder, A's players will feel 'residual effects' when MLB returns

A’s utility man Chad Pinder is home in Charlotte, North Carolina getting plenty of things done. Watching Netflix, painting nursery furniture, and getting in decent workouts in his garage.

Productive, but not reassuring.

“This is kind of unprecedented in our lifetime, basically to have the nation on hold right now,” Pinder told NBC  Sports Bay Area this week. “It is a very scary time, especially in some the areas that are affected bad right now.”

It was only a few weeks ago Pinder and his Oakland teammates were in Mesa, Arizona getting ready for a highly anticipated 2020 MLB season. 

They, like most of the country, didn’t fully interpret the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at first.

“I don’t know if we initially realized what was going on,” Pinder said. “Thought maybe this would be a two-week break, month maximum. The more information you get, the more you see going around, you realize this is a long-term thing.”

Pinder, a highly-regarded clubhouse leader, now keeps in touch with teammates mostly through text messages.

“We have a group thread, everybody’s talking,” Pinder said.

Their main conversations are about MLB developments, and to keep each other in the loop of when baseball could resume. Players don’t have any more assurances or insights than the average fan does these days. But there are some certainties. 

“Even when we resume stuff, there will be residual effects of what’s been going on,” Pinder said.

[RELATED: Stewart better after coronavirus scare]

That aforementioned nursery project is indeed preparation for Chad and his wife Taylor’s first child, due in the late summer months. He is certainly seeing different perspectives of events right now, as they relate to the future.

“The way we handle this, the way we come out of this,” Pinder said. “We’ll look back on the rest of our lives and remember this time.”