After unexpectedly taking high school players with their top picks the last two years, the A’s returned to their old, familiar ways this year, selecting a pair of collegiate players with the team’s top two draft picks on Thursday. In the first round, Oakland went with 21-year-old Cal State Fullerton third baseman Matt Chapman. The team then followed up by taking 21-year-old Clemson University RHP Daniel Gossett in the second round.
Chapman is best known for his solid defense and strong throwing arm at third. The A’s also like his plate discipline and think that he has the potential to develop into a legitimate power hitter. In 2014, Chapman posted a .312/.412/.498 slash line with 16 doubles, 6 home runs, 27 walks and 26 strikeouts in 205 at-bats for Fullerton. Meanwhile, Gossett flashes three solid pitches – a good fastball, an impressive breaking ball and an above-average changeup. He’s been Clemson’s top starter and posted a 1.93 ERA while striking out 107 in 107 1/3 innings this year at Clemson.
The A’s top pick, Chapman, was not originally drafted out of high school, but A’s scouting director Eric Kubota said that Chapman “was clearly the best player left on the board at the time we picked.” Kubota also confirmed that Chapman worked out and took batting practice in front of A’s brass at the Coliseum on Tuesday. Kubota characterized Chapman as a potential “elite defender at third base,” praised his plate discipline, and predicted “this is a guy who is going to develop into a power hitter as his pro career progresses.”
Chapman himself isn’t shy when it comes to boasting about his defensive abilities. When I asked about his greatest strength as a ballplayer, Chapman was quick to claim that he considers himself “the best” defensive college third baseman out there. And Kubota said the A’s like his attitude: “I think he is confident, but I think there is a little part of him too that is a little naïve in terms of how good he might end up becoming. His talents have continued to improve.”
Though Chapman played shortstop for three years in high school and Kubota claims the A’s think he could still play shortstop, the A’s scouting director said, “We really see him as a third baseman starting his pro career and continuing on.”
As far as comparisons go, Kubota said “it’s easy” to compare Chapman to current A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson: “When I wake up at three in the morning in the middle of a dream…that’s kind of the profile that if everything comes together, that’s the player we are hoping to get here.”
Chapman compared himself physically to Evan Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki. And A’s minor league pitcher and fellow former southern California prep player Chris Kohler referred to Chapman as A’s infield prospect Daniel Robertson’s twin, claiming that he “plays so much like him.”
Chapman, whose father Jim played college ball for Cal State Pomona, grew up in southern California as an Angels fan but joked, “It’s never too late to change your favorite team, right?” He claimed to be very familiar with the A’s from following the American League West. And as for his impression of the A’s, the team’s newest prospect said, “I know the A’s play old-school, hard-nosed baseball. And I feel that’s exactly how I go about my business.”
When it comes to the A’s top pitching pick in this year’s draft, Kubota called Gossett “a proven college performer.” And on what it was that most impressed the team about the right-hander, Kubota said, “He has a fastball that is 92-94. He throws strikes. He has the makings of an out-pitch breaking ball and a very good changeup. There is just a lot to like about him.”
Cal State Fullerton
Age: 21 / 6’2” – 215 lbs.
Bats: Right / Throws: Right
2014 College Stats: 6 HR / 27 BB / 26 K / .312 AVG / .412 OBP / .498 SLG
Age: 21 / 6’1” – 195 lbs.
Throws: Right / Bats: Right
2014 College Stats: 107 1/3 IP / 78 H / 23 ER / 30 BB / 107 K / 1.93 ERA