Blue Jays 2023 Report Card: Matt Chapman
2023 Stats: 140 GP, 66 R, 17 HR, 54 RBI, 4 SB, .240 AVG, .755 OPS
The fairytale story of Cinderella could very much summarize what the Toronto Blue Jays got with Matt Chapman for the 2023 MLB season. After coming off a solid productive season in his first year with the ballclub in 2022, Chapman was looking to build upon it by helping the Jays reach the postseason for the second consecutive season.
His Cinderella magic definitely started right from the get-go, as he stormed out of the gate with a blazing April in helping the Jays to a strong 18-10 record to start the season. Chapman would capture both AL Player of the Week as well as AL Player of the Month honours, as he hit an astonishing .384 with a 1.152 OPS, along with 17 runs scored, 15 doubles, five home runs, 21 RBI, 14 walks and 26 strikeouts in 27 games played. Everything appeared to be going Chapman’s way as he was set to have a career year.
Unfortunately, the clock would strike twelve far too soon for Chapman, as he would end up struggling for much of the rest of the season. From the month of May and onwards, he would hit near the Mendoza line at .205, along with a .659 OPS, 49 runs scored, 24 doubles, just 12 home runs, 33 RBI, and a whopping 139 strikeouts in 410 at-bats over 113 games played. In fact, if it wasn’t for his torrid start in April that helped his overall stats appear more respectable, he was actually on pace for his worst year ever in his MLB career.
For someone that had been a consistent run producer and power hitter throughout his storied MLB career despite a less-than-stellar average, the sudden huge drop-off was totally unexpected. Especially when the Jays looked upon him dearly to help carry the load in making up for some of the lost offensive output after Teoscar Hernández, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Gabriel Moreno left town during the offseason.
For those that suspect Chapman just had a case of severe bad luck, his .319 BABIP certainly suggested otherwise, as it was well-above the league average of .300. In fact, looking at his advanced statistical metrics, he appears to be seeing and making contact with the ball well too as he ranks in the 98th percentile in average exit velocity and barrel %, along with the 100th percentile in hard-hit %. In addition, his chase rate also ranks him in the 94th percentile in the league. With such numbers, one would have expected a strong, productive year from Chapman hence, making his 2023 season that much more perplexing than it has been.
Nevertheless, the more telltale story for Chapman in 2023 was his inability to produce in the biggest moments of the game. One of the more frustrating aspects of the Jays this season that was constantly under the microscope was their ability to hit in the clutch with runners in scoring position. Chapman unfortunately failed miserably in that regard, posting a mediocre .215 average and .618 OPS with only two home runs and 33 RBI to show for. Even worse, in bases loaded situations, he was able to only muster one hit in 13 at-bats for a .077 average. To top it off, his Clutch number was an unimpressive -1.70, as anything between -1 to -2 is considered poor/awful.
Not only that, but his bread and butter Gold Glove defence also took somewhat of a hit this season, Unlike his usual sure-handedness, he uncharacteristically committed a total of 12 errors in just 379 chances for a .968 fielding percentage, which was his worst performance since his first two years in the league with the Oakland Athletics. On the good side, he did have 12 DRS to help make up for some of the miscues. That apparently was enough to earn him a spot among the Gold Glove finalists for 2023 among AL third basemen. Altogether, with both his offensive and defensive side of the game showing some inconsistencies this past season, Chapman may no longer be the sure-fire power threat and defensive specialist that he used to be.
In reality, many had hoped that Chapman would have the same success as former Jay Josh Donaldson had after coming over from the Athletics when we initially acquired him in a trade during the 2021 offseason. With the hitter-friendly ballpark in the form of the Rogers Centre, one optimistically would have expected Chapman’s offensive numbers to explode, very much like how Donaldson’s did in leading to his MVP-like numbers during his tenure with the ballclub. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Chapman, as he had certainly fallen quite a bit short in that regard. However, the defensive impact he has had for the ballclub has never been questioned and was greatly appreciated all around.
With Chapman heading into free agency at the conclusion of the 2023 MLB season, the Jays have a troublesome dilemma. Chapman represents the best available third base option out there with respect to providing both a strong offensive and defensive presence for a ballclub. He also expressed that he was open to returning to the Jays to help out the ballclub as he has great respect for both his teammates and the organization as a whole. However, the prominent inconsistency that he showed in 2023 was quite worrisome, especially if it means locking him up long-term.
So whether the Jays intend to give it a shot in re-signing him or letting him go is yet to be seen. But overall in his two years, he had certainly done enough to make his tenure with the Jays quite exciting and memorable for both the ballclub and the Jays’ faithful, and we thank him for that. With regards to assigning him the appropriate letter grade for the 2023 season, his offensive production by far had been a major disappointment, but his reliable, steady defence despite his increase in errors this season still made a significant difference for the ballclub. So on offence itself Chapman would have deserved a C-, but his A-level defense boosted the final grade a bit.