The Situation: The Super-Two window has all but closed, and as they sit 17 games out of first the A’s have entered period of roster transition that has already seen youngsters Chad Pinder and Jaycob Brugman wrestle playing time away from veterans. With Trevor Plouffe scuffling on both sides of the ball and Ryon Healy really better served not subtracting value by trying to fake it at third, the timing is just right for Oakland to call up one of their top position prospects for a look at the hot corner.
The Background: A former 25th-overall pick out of College World Series-bound Cal State Fullerton, Chapman has progressed steadily through the minor leagues with consistent production at east step along the way over the past three seasons. The 24-year-old has averaged a homer every 15 at-bats in his professional career, pacing the Texas League last year and mashing 16 long balls to date in a truncated season in the Pacific Coast League. He appeared to dodge a bullet earlier this spring, when on a check swing he suffered what initially looked like a hamate fracture, but turned out to be a mere strain.
Scouting Report: Chapman’s profile has remained relatively stable over the past couple seasons, highlighted by his glove and batted-ball distances. He’s one of the best defensive third base prospects in the minor leagues, and his is a case where the defensive metrics back up the eye test. He’s aggressive both in how he sets up and gets after balls hit his way, with lateral quickness that belies his heavy-legged, churning running motion. He’s an efficient fielder with grace and body control making plays on the run, and his arm is a 70-grade weapon that’ll flirt with a true 80 tool on the right play.
At the plate Chapman brings another plus-plus tool to the table in his raw power. A leveraged swing generates plenty of extension to the ball and allows him to effectively tap into natural strength, leading to more of the majestic, moonshot kind of home runs when he catches one out front. He’s a patient hitter who will work deep counts in search of a pitch to drive, and he’ll take walks when he doesn’t get one. That coin has another side, however, and the combination of all those deep counts and fringy barrel control leads to many, many strikeouts. While seeking out the underside of the ball’s center of gravity, Chapman will frequently get too far down below, leading to weak contact and a low ceiling for batting average production.
Immediate Big League Future: Chapman should provide an immediate and potentially quite significant defensive upgrade for Oakland. Between that and the club’s incentive to see what his bat can do against big-league pitching in a lost year, he should have himself a nice little window of opportunity in the weeks to come even if he struggles to adjust offensively at the outset.
Fantasy Impact: Do you need dingers? Great! Do you play in an OBP league? Even better! Does your league penalize strikeouts? Okay, well, yeah…two outta three ain’t bad. Chapman is unlikely to contend for any batting titles, but he has the kind of raw power you can’t really teach, and he’s shown a consistent ability to bring a bunch of it into games with him at all levels of the minor leagues thus far. For those in need of a power boost, Chapman’s combination of pop and likely opportunity makes him one of the better prospect options likely to emerge over the next few weeks, and as such he warrants a moderate FAAB effort of up to 15 or 20 percent of your remaining kitty in medium-depth leagues – even in standard formats. I’d go an extra few bucks in OBP leagues, as his double-digit career walk rate has been legitimately born of approach, and he should be able to mitigate a decent chunk of his batting average liability with something more like fringe-average on-base numbers.