In March, I wrote this about Matt Chapman:
“Coming up in Oakland’s system, Chapman had a rare combination of a plus glove and plus power. Building himself into possibly the best defensive 3B in the game, let’s not sleep on his bat. The most important note on 2018 Matt Chapman is the cut in his K rate. If he can maintain this 4.5% decrease to 23.7%, his 9% walk rate should buoy a great No. 2 hitter in an underrated offense. Finishing with a whopping 137 wRC+ and a .369 weighted OBP, Chapman already broke out in my opinion. If he does it again, he’s the steal of the draft.”
As I was watching this beautiful third basemen work last night, and the A’s telecast posted an incredible graphic. Check out Chapman’s Whiff Rate by season:
Chapman hits the ball hard and hits in a prime spot in a decent lineup (please come back Matt Olson). I chronicled this in my March article. But, this development is staggering. The tumbling whiff rate has resulted in a 11.2% walk rate and a 10.2% K rate! Small sample size: yes. Has this been developing for two years: yes! Chapman was already a top 20 hitter last year in Hard Hit rate, but the regression police were concerned about his BABIP and strikeouts.
With the maturity of the hitting profile so evident in the first month, those concerns seem unfounded. He has a .410 wOBA thus far and just a 13.3% soft contact percentage. Chapman’s 2019 slashline with a normal (if not low for his profile) .290 BABIP looks like this: .313/.398/.590. Matt Chapman is becoming what you hoped Kris Bryant was going to be when you took him in the 3rd round of your drafts. Buy high on Chapman. Do it now! This is not a drill.
This isn’t just about a victory lap. This is about your process. Young players get better, which seems to be a novel concept to some of your pessimistic league-mates. Look for signs like: an increase in hard hit rate, an increase in walk rate, a decrease in strikeouts, and changes in contact%. Fly ball rates increasing are a great sign as well. With that in mind, here are a list of five guys to watch. I am not going to draw any conclusions yet on these guys, but do your homework before you do.
1. Paul Dejong – Similar profile to Chapman and also hits in a great lineup spot. BABIP is very high and contact% hasn’t seen much change. But, a nice drop in K rate coupled with how hard he hits the ball… find his owner and lowball him. Many are sure that DeJong is all but guaranteed to fall apart. I think, like Chapman, if these gains are somewhat sustained, DeJong is a valuable fantasy asset with great counting stats potential.
2. Brandon Lowe – wOBA is 51 points higher than his .326 mark so far. Walks are a bit down and strikeouts are way too high. However, he has shown a .316 ISO which is encouraging. He’s not going to play against lefties, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Target his upside in a daily league because he’s almost free. I think the K’s come down and the batting average will normalize, but .260 with 25 HR and 15 SB is quite possibly what we’ll get from the fourth guy on this list and the price is significantly lower. I’m looking at you Travis Shaw owners.
3. Tim Anderson – His K rate is down and his BABIP is stupid high. But, he’s been aggressive on the base-paths. I have never been a big fan, but keep monitoring this guy. If the Ks stay down and he walks (for once) a little bit, it might be more legitimate than others believe.
4. Yoan Moncada – I get the hype, but I’m still skeptical. But, the theme of this list is to keep paying attention. Moncada is swinging more and continuing to make hard contact. If it’s real, this is what his breakout looks like. If you believe, now would be the time to pounce. If you own him, don’t be afraid that the walks are down. It’s all about K rate and his splits. Is he doing all of his damage from one side of the plate? A wait and see approach is crucial, but .280 with 25/15 is incredibly valuable if this holds up.
5. Max Muncy – The Ks are high and the walks are down. He has traded line drives for fly balls and his Hard Hit rate has gone down. He may end up facing more lefties as the Dodgers platoon less, which is a be careful what you wish for scenario. If you own him, I don’t think you’ll get the return you hope for. If you don’t, pay attention to the schedule. Dodgers left handed hitters are always a smart investment, so I think a buy low opportunity could come. But, if what we’ve seen thus far is who Muncy is, the doubters were definitely correct compared to 2018’s results.
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