Much ink has been spilled over Major League Baseball’s home-run revolution. We’re on pace for more homers than any other season in the sport’s history. We’re already well past the entire total of long balls for the 2014 season, and it’s just mid-August.
The A’s saw this coming long ago. Five seasons ago, Oakland quietly started hoarding flyball hitters, seeking to win with power, and get the jump on a commodity that would later cause other clubs to make rash, overzealous moves in search of home runs. The A’s have kept that trend going, not only leading the league in flyball percentage back in 2012 and 2013, but continuing to do so in 2017.
Matt Chapman is now part of that lineage. Oakland’s first-round draft pick out of Cal State Fullerton in 2014, Chapman since day one of his pro career has embodied the swing-for-the-fences approach that the A’s favor. In 2016, he blasted 36 homers across the Double- and Triple-A levels, posting sky-high flyball rates but also the expected high strikeout rates, fueling a .237/.328/.519 line that would fit perfectly on, say, A’s outfielder Khris Davis’ Baseball-Reference page. Chapman’s up to the same tricks since getting called up to the majors earlier this summer: He’s batting .228/.305/.507 with eight home runs in 40 games.
There’s no way you can miss his flyball-heavy tendencies either. Among American League hitters with as many plate appearances, only the Rangers’ Joey Gallo has hit a higher percentage of balls in play for flyballs. Scouts have long questioned Chapman’s ability to make contact and hit for average, and he offers little speed despite being a 24-year-old rookie. But Chapman’s combination of power, plus defense, and his swing-for-the-moon approach could make him a valuable asset in Oakland for the next six seasons. Even if the A’s do find another inefficiency to pursue in the meantime.