After being taken with the A’s top pick in the 2014 amateur draft, third baseman Matt Chapman began his career in the A’s system at Beloit. The Orange County native got off to a bit of a slow start in the Midwest League, but later performed well in the postseason when he played for Midland in the Texas League playoffs and championship series.
Chapman got off to a late start this season after injuring his knee while working out just prior to the opening of spring camp. The 22-year-old finally began his season on May 7 with Stockton. In 58 games since his season started, he’s managed to accumulate a total of 15 home runs and currently leads all A’s minor leaguers in that important category. We caught up with Chapman in Stockton, just about two months into his first season in the California League…
AF: I know you’re a California guy. So, even though it’s not southern California, tell me what it’s been like for you having the chance to play here in Stockton in the California League this year.
MC: It’s awesome to be able to have family nearby and see my friends and family every time we go down south or have them visit. It’s a short drive up here. It’s great. It’s good to be home, and it’s good to be playing baseball.
AF: After coming out of the college game last year, what was the biggest difference for you in terms of adapting to the pro game?
MC: Just playing every day. You’re not always going to feel good. You’re not always going to be ripping the cover off the baseball. So just to be able to show up and bring something to the table every day and just give it your all and find ways to contribute – just getting used to the grind. I’m still getting used to it. It’s my first full season, so I’m just trying to make that transition.
AF: Yep, pretty much every day you wake up, there’s going to be a ball game!
MC: Yeah, whether you like it or not!
AF: How is it different playing here in Stockton this year as opposed to where you spent most of last year at Beloit in the Midwest League?
MC: There’s talent in that league as well. But each level you step up, the competition is just more consistent. There’s the same amount of talent at most levels, but everybody’s got the ability at the higher levels to do it on a more consistent basis. You know, you’re not getting any free at-bats up here.
AF: Are there any particular adjustments you’ve had to make at this level this year?
MC: I’ve definitely been making a lot of adjustments, and just trying to figure out what works for me at the plate and just develop myself into a professional player and have a professional swing.
AF: When you were first drafted, everyone I talked to in the A’s organization talked about your power potential. And now you’re leading the A’s minor league system in home runs at this point after missing the first month of the season. So what’s been going right with your power stroke and what’s ebabled you to square up as many balls as you have this year?
MC: I definitely have run into my fair share of baseballs, that’s for sure. But just that work that I was talking about, trying to get that professional swing. Some things have been working but, to be honest, I’m definitely not satisfied with the way I’ve been hitting. I’ve been striking out too much and my batting average is too low. But that’s all stuff that we’re working on, and hopefully we’ll find a happy medium on everything, and we’ll all be smiling!
AF: In the college game, you seemed to draw a lot of walks, but that hasn’t been quite the case here yet. So what do you think accounts for that difference?
MC: Just maybe swinging at some pitches that I shouldn’t. I’ve just got to focus and take good at-bats. The pitching’s definitely a lot better – they don’t throw as many balls. Obviously, college is easier to hit in, and guys weren’t throwing me as many strikes in college because I was hitting third. I would like it to be back to what it was, but we’re still working on it.
AF: Well, I guess at this level, a lot of it is just figuring out which pitches are the ones you can handle and which ones you’ve just got to lay off of.
MC: Exactly, if I had it all figured out, I’d be in the big leagues. So it’s still the minor leagues, still working on it, still a work in progress.
AF: So is there anything you’re focused on trying to work on or any goals or expectations you have for yourself for the second half of the season?
MC: Team-wise, I want us to win the second half and make the playoffs, because I think we’ve got a great group of guys and it’s fun to be out here with them. It’s a great team – we’ve got a lot of talent on it. And on a personal level, just find ways to help us win and definitely cut the strikeouts down and get the batting average up.
AF: So where are you living here in Stockton and who are you living with this season?
MC: I live with Joel Seddon, Kyle Finnegan and Dylan Covey. We live a little bit north of the ballpark in an apartment. But that’s just where we sleep. We spend most of our time here.
AF: You’re living with a bunch of pitchers. So is there anything you’re learning from living with all those pitchers?
MC: Yeah, we all kind of pick each other’s brains on certain things. But those guys are just my buddies, they’re good dudes, and we just kind of feed off each other and we enjoy each other’s presence. When you spend as much time with each other as we do, you better be with people you enjoy!
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