A’s Matt Chapman: Is the slugger undervalued in 2018?

Matt Chapman was impressive in his debut for the A’s last season. But, is the young slugger actually being undervalued?

The Oakland A’s may be in for a long season, yet that does not mean they lack plenty of intriguing fantasy contributors. Even though the Coliseum plays huge, Oakland’s power threats cannot be contained. One of those sluggers, Matt Chapman, debuted last season with a bang. Yet, could he still be undervalued heading into 2018?

Matt Chapman was a first-round pick by the A’s in 2014, yet never emerged as a top-prospect across MLB until last season. On the heels of a 36 HR/96 RBI campaign in 2016, the power finally manifested itself and scouts took notice. He began 2017 at high-A and AAA ball, and once again got off to his usual start, posting a .247/16 HR/30 RBI/.906 OPS line in over 51 games.

Chapman was promoted by the A’s at the end of June and became a full-time regular a third in July. Over his 290 at-bats at the major league level, Chapman finished with a .234/14 HR/40 RBI/.785 OPS/23 2B line. The AVG was ugly, and the K rate was high, but the XBh ability was stellar.

Digging deeper into his batted ball data, he finished with 16% LD, 34% GB, 51% FB, 44% Med, and 36% Hard contact rates. The LD rate is a tad low, but Chapman is all about uppercutting and getting the ball in the air.

With that approach though, his AVG is prone to be capped and his swing becomes long. This is why he has never been an AVG producer in the minors and what will hinder him moving forward. While the extreme uppercut motion limits AVG, when he connects the ball jumps off his bat.

Chapman ranked top-five in average flyball distance, notching 233 ft. per FB. His average exit velocity was 91 mph as well, ranking him in the same breath as Josh Donaldson, Rhys Hoskins, Gary Sanchez, and even, J.D. Martinez. Chapman fits the modern mode of being about launch angle and power, while not caring if the K add up.

What gets lost on most fantasy owners is that Chapman actually made strides in his plate approach as the season went on. By the end of 2017, Chapman had lowered his K rate to 21%, a 9% drop from the previous two months, and raised his BB rate to 12%. The rise in his BB rate was a near 5% jump from his debut in July and a 1% increase from the month prior to that.

Chapman interestingly enough only swung at 27% of pitches out of the zone, as opposed to attacking 62% of pitches in the strike zone. That offered him the ability to post a respectable 73% Contact rate. Even though he has never been a solid AVG producer at any level, his profile suggests that he is not as bad as a .230 hitter either.

While one would think that Chapman would find solace playing on the road, he actually was much better in Oakland, .284/8 HR/24 RBI, compared to .183/6 HR/16 RBI, on the road. Those splits will surely even out some as he gets acclimated in his sophomore year, yet shows that his power plays anywhere.

Chapman’s current ADP sits well outside the 200s, and he is being selected around the 30th third baseman off the board. For a guy with the raw power that Chapman has and the solid adjustments he made to close out the season, there a ton of upside in his bat that owners are seeming to ignore.

Chapman could find time batting behind the likes of Khris Davis, Matt Olson, and even a possible resurgent, Stephen Piscotty. While those hitters have their own flaws, there is a ton of RBI chances for Chapman to see considering the XBH prowess of those hitters.

The A’s will rely on Chapman to lock down the hot corner for years to come. He is already a tremendous defensive asset, and no one can argue the raw power. Chapman is being taken after the likes of Chris Owings, Dansby Swanson, and even Brandon Crawford, all batters that have extremely limited offensive upsides compared to Chapman.

Do not be afraid to target Chapman this spring, as there is 30 HR/80 RBI upside to be had for nothing more than a late-round flier.