Toronto Blue Jays: Getting to Know Third Baseman Matt Chapman

Sep 5, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Oakland Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman (26) reacts after striking out against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 5, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Oakland Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman (26) reacts after striking out against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /

A day after Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins eluded to future additions being made to the infield, he followed through, acquiring All-Star third baseman Matt Chapman from the Oakland Athletics. This isn’t the first time the Blue Jays have shipped a package of prospects to the Athletics in exchange for their star at the hot corner. Chapman is expected to provide top-tier defence at third, as well as be a dependable run producer in the lineup.

If Chapman had played in a larger market, he no doubt would be a bigger name. He makes some of the flashiest plays you’ll see in today’s game and has averaged 31 home runs over a 162 game span for his career. He has the natural talent of a perennial All-Star, and no doubt will make a significant impact in a Jays uniform. Chapman is a dynamic player, and Jays fans should be hyped about his arrival. He was no doubt one of the best available fits for this roster going into this offseason. Despite some unfamiliarity with Chapman, the sure-handed third baseman has actually been a prominent name in baseball circles since his high school days.

Matt Chapman attended El Toro High in Lake Forest, California. There, he mainly played shortstop and spent a fair bit of his teen years backing up a future major leaguer in Nolan Arenado. In 2009, a younger Chapman would play short while the future Rockies infielder pitched. A perennial Gold-Glover and MLB star in his own right, Arenado would be drafted out of high school but Chapman would not, and opted to attend Cal State Fullerton.

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Chapman was smaller in stature before graduating but over three years at Cal State he would grow in size. This contributed to his development both offensively and defensively. He would mostly play third in college while maintaining a .834 OPS. The Victorville, California native would be drafted in the first round by Oakland via the 25th pick in the 2014 draft. He progressed his way through the system, eventually earning a call-up in 2017. His rookie year saw him play in 84 games. His bat was sneaky, hitting to a 111 OPS+ while having a defensive runs saved (DRS) of 15 as per Fangraphs.

In an effort to upgrade their infield, the Blue Jays have acquired Matt Chapman to play third base. Let’s take a look at his career up to this point.

Over the next few seasons, Chapman would improve offensively. The 2018 and 2019 campaigns saw him post an OPS+ of 137 and 127 respectively. These offensive numbers were of course accompanied by other-worldly defence. His DRS was anywhere between 15 and 28 during this period. Those figures rank him either above or among the league’s best. A look into these stat’s trends would show there is no evidence of a decline in his defensive abilities at any point in time. The Blue Jays are truly getting a generational defensive talent.

Chapman is no stranger to hardware. In addition to being an All-Star in 2019 and receiving MVP votes in past years, Chapman has earned three Gold-Glove awards, two Platinum Glove awards, and a Wilson Defensive Player of the Year award. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that Matthew James Chapman can pick it. But after a down offensive season, can he still swing it? To start, judging by OPS+, he’s never been a below-average hitter, even in a down season like last year.

Despite hitting .210 in 2021, his OPS+ of 100 meant he was right on average. This was no doubt aided by his power output, shown in his 27 home runs. Baseball Savant backs up his general hitting ability as well. He ranks in the 89th percentile in max exit velocity, 86th percentile in barrel percentage, and 91st percentile in walk percentage. These provide a strong foundation for Chapman’s offensive ability. Improved ability to make contact, which has been done with hitters like Teoscar, could lead to an offensive explosion from the new third baseman.

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Chapman’s pedigree is noteworthy, and he’s been nothing short of a stud since in arrival in MLB. He will make an impact on both sides of the ball. The Blue Jays just got an absolute gamer.