Chapman goes deep for first homer with Blue Jays

Third baseman entered Spring Training with 'plan' at the plate

March 20th, 2022

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Matt Chapman made a fine first impression in his spring debut during Sunday's 10-4 Toronto win over Pittsburgh, launching a rocket over left field at TD Ballpark in just his second plate appearance with the Blue Jays following last week's trade from the A's.

Chapman turned on the first pitch he saw, a 92.3 mph sinker from the Pirates' Bryse Wilson, and he smacked all of it with a projected 111.3 mph exit velocity. Coming off Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s home run to open his own spring on Saturday against the Phillies, it’s another reminder of what this lineup is capable of after leading MLB in home runs (262) and OPS (.796) in 2021.

“It’s always good to get that first one out of the way,” Chapman said, “that first knock. This one was a homer, so that helped calm the nerves a little bit. Hopefully it gives the fans something to rally behind and something to cheer for.”

Coming off a down year in 2021 -- Chapman hit just .210 with 27 home runs while striking out 202 times -- the 28-year-old feels rejuvenated in camp after having a full offseason to build his strength. Chapman underwent surgery to repair his right hip labrum prior to ’21, and even though he was back in time for the season, it was difficult to build up to his ’18 and ’19 form, when he emerged as one of the best infielders in baseball with elite defense.

Part of getting back to that point will be adjusting to a quicker ramp-up. Beyond the shortened Spring Training, the trade added a major move between teams and time zones for Chapman. To compensate, he’ll try to get to the plate in spring with more of a plan, simulating something closer to the regular season instead of simply getting some swings in.

“That’s something I really want to hone in on,” Chapman said. “Last year, not feeling like myself, I didn’t go out there committed to what I wanted to do. This year, I really want to commit to locking in, whether that’s a pitch or an approach. Just being able to walk into that box fully confident with what I want to do, I’m trying to practice that as much as I can.”

Now, Chapman feels like the strength in his lower body has fully returned, allowing him to load up his legs and produce power for his swing. Sunday’s swing seemed to back that up.

Back in 2019, when Chapman was named an All-Star and finished sixth in AL MVP voting, he hit a career-high 36 home runs. There’s a world of difference between hitting in Oakland and in the AL East, and while Josh Donaldson is a far different hitter than Chapman, he’s a fine example of how a hitter with power can benefit from the change of scenery.