Chapman replaces Yelich in Home Run Derby

July 7th, 2019

SEATTLE -- grew up watching the Home Run Derby with his dad as an annual ritual of sorts, “dreaming” of the chance to one day fulfill a father-son tandem on the national stage.

Now, they’ll get that opportunity.

Chapman will replace the Brewers’ Christian Yelich, who has a back issue, in Monday’s T-Mobile Home Run Derby at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The elder Chapman, Jim, will throw to the A’s third baseman, who was selected to his first All-Star Game last Sunday. Chapman will take Yelich’s spot in the bracket as the No. 1 seed, and he will square off against Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the first round.

“I don't think in a million years we thought I'd be in a Home Run Derby,” Chapman said on Sunday at T-Mobile Park. “But at the time, my dad was like, 'If you ever got to do that, I want to throw to you.'”

Given the immediacy of the invitation, Chapman hasn’t had time to take a dry run in a simulated format, the way many participants have, such as Guerrero Jr. and Yelich, before he pulled out.

“Maybe it's better that way,” Chapman said. “Don't overthink it. I'll get some practice in tomorrow, I'm sure, for BP and then I think there's extra practice, so hopefully I can get my dad to throw me BP tomorrow and we'll practice it. But I wish I tried to hit a few more homers in BP now.”

Chapman has swatted 21 homers this season, three shy of the career high he set in his breakout 2018 season. He ranks among the Majors’ leaders in exit velocity, and has been allocating his power to all fields. For the Derby, though, Chapman said his strategy will be to pull with power. Progressive Field, where Chapman has one homer in six career games, has an elevated wall in left field that will likely be a factor for right-handed hitters.

“I'm just going to try to hit it where it's pitched and see what happens,” Chapman said. “I've kind of got to see what kind of pitching I'm dealing with my dad. But I'm thinking, I just told him to throw it right down the middle. I'm just going to try to go to left-center, to be honest.”

Among the Derby participants -- the Pirates’ Josh Bell, the Indians’ Carlos Santana, the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson, the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr., the Mets’ Pete Alonso, the Blue Jays’ Guerrero Jr. and the Astros’ Alex Bregman -- Chapman’s 93-mph average exit velocity trails only Bell's 93.4.

Chapman said that the MLB Players Association had reached out recently informing him that he was on a short list of potential replacements, and that his agent, Scott Boras, contacted him early on Sunday to gauge his interest.

As for the risk of potentially tinkering his swing, a potential byproduct of taking such max-effort cuts in such an abbreviated period, Chapman wasn’t apprehensive about participating. Neither was A’s manager Bob Melvin.

This also isn’t Chapman’s first rodeo. He competed in a Derby while playing in Double-A.

“I think that I'll be able to shorten it back up,” Chapman said. “Hopefully I just take the same good swing and then hit homers. But if not, I'm sure it won't be a problem to shorten it back up.”

“He keeps himself in great shape,” Melvin said. “He takes a lot of swings as is. He does a lot in the cage. He does a lot of maintenance. He’s not one of those guys who just takes a few swings and goes into the game, so in that respect, I think he’s conditioned for it.”

Chapman grew up in suburban Southern California and attended the 2010 event at Angel Stadium, when David Ortiz won, and he said that his favorite Derby memory was the ’08 slugfest at old Yankee Stadium, when Josh Hamilton hit a record 28 in the first round.

“It's something that I've always dreamed of doing, and to be able to do it … you've got to take advantage of it for sure,” Chapman said.