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5 reasons to root for Chapman in Derby

@mattkellyMLB
July 7, 2019

He may have been the last player named to the 2019 T-Mobile Home Run Derby, but Matt Chapman has as good a chance as any contestant to take home the crown. • Play HR Derby Bracket Challenge for chance to win $250,000 Major League Baseball announced that Chapman will replace

He may have been the last player named to the 2019 T-Mobile Home Run Derby, but Matt Chapman has as good a chance as any contestant to take home the crown.

Play HR Derby Bracket Challenge for chance to win $250,000

Major League Baseball announced that Chapman will replace Brewers star Christian Yelich (back soreness) and face Blue Jays rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the opening round. Chapman’s selection encapsulates a breakout year for him at the plate, in which he’s raised his slugging percentage by nearly 30 points to pair a potent bat with his world-renowned glove at third base.

T-Mobile Home Run Derby: Monday, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

Here are five reasons to root for Chapman in this year’s Derby:

1) He’s quietly been one of MLB’s most powerful hitters

Chapman entered Sunday averaging a 93 mph exit velocity on his balls in play, putting him in the 97th percentile among all qualified big league hitters. That’s the exact same as Chapman’s average exit velocity last year, when he also finished in the 97th percentile, and his rate of hard-hit (95-plus mph) balls in play is slightly higher this year at 49.4% -- placing him in the 94th percentile. Chapman’s 21 homers entering the break place him just three dingers shy of his count for all of last year.

Another way to sum up those numbers: Only a few hitters in baseball thump the ball as consistently as the A’s burgeoning superstar.

2) He’d establish himself as a true two-way threat

Chapman already owns the 2018 American League Rawlings Platinum Glove Award, given each year to the league’s best overall defensive player, for his daily highlight-reel plays at third base. Now, he could be the first Platinum Glove winner to also capture a Home Run Derby crown -- an achievement former Platinum winners/Derby contestants Manny Machado and Anthony Rizzo haven’t been able to claim to this point.

In fact, Chapman would be the first player to win a Derby after already capturing a Gold Glove Award since Robinson Cano in 2011, and the 12th player overall to claim both honors in his career along with Cano, Yoenis Cespedes, Bobby Abreu, Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Cal Ripken Jr., Ryne Sandberg, Eric Davis, Andre Dawson and Dave Parker.

3) He’s got elite top-end power

The first four and a half seasons of Statcast has established 115-plus mph as the absolute top-end for big league exit velocity. Only 33 players have recorded a homer that hard since Statcast started tracking in 2015 -- and that includes Chapman, who laced a career-best 115.2 mph dinger off Matt Moore last July 23. It's also the A's hardest-hit homer since '15.

Pete Alonso (twice) and Josh Bell are the only other Derby contestants this year who have crossed the 115-plus mph threshold.

4) He’d be the second third baseman to win the Derby

Just one third baseman (Todd Frazier, 2015) has won this contest since its inception in 1985, so Chapman and fellow contestant Alex Bregman can make some hot corner history. Plenty of the game’s best third basemen have competed and fallen short, including Matt Williams, Bobby Bonilla, Gary Sheffield, Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, Vinny Castilla, David Wright, Josh Donaldson, Kris Bryant and Machado.

Chapman could achieve what those superstars could not.

5) He could help the A’s make history

The Yankees boast the most Home Run Derby titles of any MLB team with four, but they’d have company if Chapman took home the title. The A’s are currently tied with the Cubs, Reds and Mariners for second place with three wins apiece, with Oakland’s previous titles coming by way of Mark McGwire’s 1992 victory at San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium and Yoenis Cespedes’ back-to-back crowns in 2013-14. Chapman could also help the A’s break a tie with the Yankees (two apiece) for the most Derby titles this decade.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.