Chapman aims to make bat shine like glove

February 17th, 2020

MESA, Ariz. -- has already established himself as one of baseball’s elite defenders with two Gold and Platinum Glove Awards in his first full seasons in the Majors. For 2020, he plans to elevate his offense to that same level.

The All-Star third baseman bashed a career-high 36 homers last season to go with 91 RBIs and a .249/.342/.506 slash line. Those numbers were certainly nothing to scoff at, but could have been even better had he not finished the year in a bit of a slump with a .194 batting average over his final 58 games after hitting .281 through the first 98.

Battling through a knee injury over the final two months of the season could have played a factor in the decreased production, but Chapman won’t use that as an excuse. He believes the root of the struggles lay more in his mechanics at the plate, which he pressed the reset button on this offseason.

“I wanted to really make a few adjustments offensively,” Chapman said. “Nothing crazy. It’s not like I was completely upset about my year. But I know there is room to improve. Just trying to be more consistent and efficient with my swing.”

About three days a week, Chapman went to go hit at the Boras Sports Training Institute in Newport Beach, Calif. The focus was on his swing and figuring out how to clean it up in order to combat his struggles with elevated fastballs and offspeed pitches.

There already aren’t many players who can smack a baseball harder than Chapman. Of his 145 hits last season, 73 were hit with an exit velocity of 105 mph or more, according to Statcast, which was good for second-most in the Majors behind Pete Alonso. That ability to punish a ball was on display during the A’s first day of full-squad workouts on Monday.

“I think it was more mechanical than anything. I was doing a few things that weren’t giving me the best chance for success,” Chapman said. “I tried to just clean up those few things and I think I’m going to have a better baseline for this season.”

Chapman won’t shy away from his personal goals for the season. He wants to bat .300 and hit 40 home runs. Such numbers combined with his continued outstanding defensive work would likely push him up even further in the American League MVP race after finishing sixth in voting last year. 

Are putting up those types of stats realistic? A’s manager Bob Melvin could easily see it happening.

“The sky is the limit for him,” Melvin said. “He’s one of the top players in the league and really probably hasn’t had the offensive season that he would like to have at this point. He’s just going to keep getting better. He’s not at his ceiling right now. 

“I’ve said often he’ll be in the MVP conversation for years to come.”

An MVP-like season from Chapman also wouldn’t hurt the A’s hopes of finally catching the Astros for the division crown, a goal they’d like to reach after back-to-back 97-win seasons have resulted in playoff exits in the Wild Card Game.

“Obviously, until you dethrone somebody, it’s the Astros’ division to lose,” Chapman said. “But I think we have a great opportunity here. The Rangers and Angels did get better. This is a top-heavy division.”

A’s to honor Lieppman

Melvin broke a bit of news Monday when he revealed that former director of player development Keith Lieppman would be inducted into the Oakland A’s Hall of Fame this year.

Lieppman, who has spent nearly 50 years with the organization after beginning his baseball career in 1971 as a Minor Leaguer, is now in a special advisory role with the club after 28 years as its farm director. He was an integral part of developing many stars, from those who powered the A’s World Series teams in the ‘80s to the successful clubs that have appeared in the postseason over the past two years.

Melvin made the announcement during his yearly address given to players inside Hohokam Stadium’s clubhouse for the first day of full-squad workouts. The news was met with a rousing reception.

“I’ve had rounds of applause in those meetings before, but nothing like that. It was deafening,” Melvin said. “It’s well-deserved. He has touched so many guys in this organization. Almost everybody in that room. And not just the players -- the coaches, the managers. He’s been so big for me as a resource. 

“I think he’s the most influential guy in maybe Oakland A’s history as far as the development of the players here. For me, that was the most fun of the meeting.”