Wednesday, June 4, 2014

2014 Draft, Player of Interest: Matt Chapman, 3b

Matt Chapman, 3b
Cal State Fullerton
HT: 6-2 WT: 215
DOB: 4/28/1993 (21)
B/T: R/R

The Reds have needs in every area of the farm system, but one asset they never seem to have enough of is professional hitters. As of late, the MLB team seem to give away far too many ABs. They never seem to have enough hitters who can grind ABs to gain count-leverage, rather than just flail away at whatever a pitcher flings up there.

Perhaps more than any attribute, a disciplined approach has to be drafted, rather than developed. Minor league hitters can make incremental improvements in approach, but, by and large, a hitter's approach is unchangeable.

That said, placing a slighter greater emphasis on drafting hitters who utilize a disciplined approach might be a wise move for the organization.

All of that leads us to Cal State Fullerton third baseman Matt Chapman. Chapman isn't in the top tier of draft-eligible prospects, Baseball America rates him as the 64th best draft prospect, but he offers up a nice blend of tools and skills.

Here is how he performed in his three years at Fullerton:

2012: .286/.340/.370 with 2 homers and a 29/12 K/BB ratio in 189 ABs
2013: .285/.415/.457 with 5 homers and a 29/34 K/BB ratio in 186 ABs
2014: .312/.412/.498 with 6 homers and a 26/27 K/BB ratio in 205 ABs

Chapman has been improving each season and is now showing a solid, though inconsistent, hit tool and the ability to control the strike zone. Chapman walks as much, if not more, than he whiffs, which speaks to strong plate discipline, pitch recognition, and contact ability. In addition, his power has been trending upwards. Overall, he provided a solid baseline of performance in his collegiate career, but he needs to continue to refine his hit tool to make hard contact more consistently.

Chapman's best tool is undoubtedly his arm, as, despite not pitching during his collegiate career, he has cranked his fastball up to 98 mph. Obviously, that arm strength will increase the number of plays he can convert into outs at the hot corner, but it might also make pitching a fallback option if he doesn't develop as a position player. It certainly worked for the A's and Sean Doolittle, so it might be a way to mitigate development risk.

In addition to his arm strength, Chapman is a good overall defender. First, he is technically sound, as evidenced by the first few groundballs he takes at the hot corner in the below video (~ 0:20 mark). He is setting up to field the ball with his right foot in front and his left foot slightly behind, which opens up his body for the throw to second base. If you compare that technique to the technique he uses on groundballs (i.e. around the 5:05 mark) when he is throwing to home or first, then you can see that his feet get more square when he's coming home or to first. He obviously understands the nuances of the position and is willing to put in the work to master them.

Here's the video clip, which is great, courtesy of Moore Sports Media on YouTube:

In addition to his good technique, you can also see that Chapman moves well. He has good agility and footwork, which enables him to get his body into proper position to field the ball, which he does with soft hands and smooth fielding actions.

At the plate, Chapman uses a slightly wider than shoulder-width stance and a short stride to transfer his weight. His pre-pitch approach is quiet with a small bat waggle. As for the swing itself, he checks a lot of the boxes you want to see. He gets the back elbow in close to the back hip, fires the hips, and firms up the front side. So, there's a nice foundation there.

His swing does seem a bit stiff and at times feels top-hand heavy. That gives his swing a bit of "push" to it and occasionally looks like he's trying to muscle the ball with his upper body rather than let the core provide the power to whip the bat through the zone. And, the heavier use of the top hand also helps explain his more line-drive oriented swing. Finally, his bat speed seems more solid/average than plus. So, there is some risk to his hitting and his hit tool.

Here's a better look at Chapman at the plate in game action, courtesy of CollegeBaseballBlog on YouTube:

Overall, Chapman is an intriguing prospect who provides a nice blend of tools and skills, takes disciplined ABs, and provides plus defense at the hot corner. Further, scouts describe him as hard nosed with a blue-collar mentality, so he's likely to get the most out of his abilities.

The Reds have a lot of needs down on the farm, but Chapman would bolster the position player ranks and potentially provide a much needed homegrown "professional hitter". There is some risk in his hit tool, but it's probably manageable given that he's not coming off the board in the first round. Ultimately, his power production will probably determine whether he develops into a true impact hitter, but his diversified skill set could make him a valuable player even without much power. He's worth a look.

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