“It’s natural for him,” first baseman Matt Olson said.
Outfielder Khris Davis added, “It’s fun to watch his arm. He’s a special player.”
“His defensive metrics, any one that you look at, is off the charts,” manager Bob Melvin said.
Chapman did not qualify for an American League Gold Glove this season, not playing enough innings in time to make the award ballot. But a look at the metrics Melvin talked about shows that Chapman put himself in elite company rather quickly in ’17, and should be in the AL Gold Glove conversation for years to come.
According to Fangraphs, Chapman had 19 Defensive Runs Saved, which measures individual players as above or below average on defense, with 0 being average. Chapman was one of seven players in all of baseball with a DRS mark of at least 19.
It’s similar when looking at Baseball Reference, which has Chapman as one of only eight players in baseball with at least two Defensive Wins Above Replacement, finishing with 2.2 dWAR. His numbers were better than every third baseman except for Colorado’s Nolan Arenado, who Chapman was teammates with at El Toro High School in Lake Forest, California.
Chapman only logged 727 innings at third base in 84 games on the season, but turned 34 double plays, the most ever by a third baseman with fewer than 100 games played. A big reason why is his excellent throwing arm.
“With his arm, it allows him to play a little bit deeper, which allows him to get to some balls,” Melvin said. “And if he gets to it, he’s going to catch it. And if he’s got a chance to turn two, with his arm strength, he gives the second baseman a good feed and a chance to do what he wants over at second base, too.”
While he’s earned the praise of many for his stellar play at the hot corner, Chapman still says there’s “a lot of room for improvement.” He thinks he needs to make smarter decisions on when to use his arm.
“I think I’ve made some dumb errors,” Chapman said. “I’m going to make more errors than the average third baseman because I get to a lot more balls than most third basemen do. I’d be curious to see what percentage of the errors are hits plus errors, just based off the plays I’ve made. But I want to just clean up that part of my game and try and make less errors.”
Chapman made 13 errors this season, with seven of them being of the throwing variety. Of those seven, four came on plays where a batter already had a hit on the play and advanced a base because of the error. Chapman admitted he’s gotten “greedy” at times, trying to make a play when he shouldn’t throw the ball, but Melvin thinks that the 24-year-old just needs more time in the Majors.
“As long as you’re accurate with it, you can go after some throws like that, and he’s very accurate,” Melvin said. “He’ll throw a ball or two away, like anybody else does. But I think, once he learns the league more and your instincts based on the personnel you’re playing against get that much better, I don’t think that’s going to be an issue for him.”
With the A’s planning on having Chapman manning third base for some time, golden hardware looks to be in his near future. It’s something Chapman is striving for.
“To be in that category would be pretty awesome,” Chapman said. “Whatever you want to do, you should want to be the best, and that’s definitely something that I would like to do.”