Chapman enters 2017 with momentum from healthy year

Chapman enters 2017 with momentum from healthy year

A's prospect Matt Chapman was the talk of Spring Training last year, and for good reason. The slugging third baseman showed off his power, leading the club with six home runs and 14 RBIs in Cactus League play.

Chapman collected 36 more home runs by year's end -- 29 with Double-A Midland and seven with Triple-A Nashville, following his August promotion to cap his first full, healthy professional season.

"It was great," Chapman said earlier this month at MLB's Rookie Career Development Program. "Couldn't have had two more opposite seasons, 2015 being injury-plagued … but then bouncing back to this next season and played just about every game I think.

"It feels good to get a full season in, and then you get a promotion at the end of the year, so it's just nice playing a full season seeing what I can do. It really paid off, and this year I was just fortunate enough to stay healthy and have some good teammates around me and have fun. I had a lot of fun."

Rookie Prg: Chapman

Chapman is likely to begin the season with Nashville, while the A's start the 2017 campaign with a pair of third-base options in Ryon Healy and Trevor Plouffe. The duo's presence allows the A's not to rush Chapman, who has just 18 Triple-A games under his belt.

Chapman's raw power is mesmerizing, but his defense is just as impressive. MLB Pipeline named Chapman to the 2017 All-Defense Team, with senior writer Jim Callis noting: "Chapman stands out most for his cannon of an arm, which once delivered 98-mph fastballs during his brief stint as a pitcher with the U.S. college national team. Add in his good hands and range, and he makes routine plays with consistency and spectacular plays with regularity."

Chapman said he takes "the most" pride in his defense. He's ranked by as Oakland's No. 4 prospect.

"It's something I've always taken pride in, ever since I was younger, then going to college, where I went, the emphasis at Fullerton was defense," he said. "My coaches worked with me, and my other coaches worked with me in the A's organization, helping me develop into the fielder I am. It all came from just work, working with teammates and coaches and just repetition and, ultimately, turning it into one of the best parts of my game."

Chapman, who will turn 24 in April, said any thoughts of pitching are on the backburner.

"It was always something we joked about, because I did have a strong arm and would kind of jump up there and mess around at practice, but I never thought I'd actually get put on the mound. And then when the coach told me to do it, I just went up there and I was kind of just chucking it," he said. "I didn't have much form or know what I was doing, but just went up and threw it as hard as I could. I never really thought I was a pitcher and still don't, but I guess at the end of the day it could be something to fall back on if the worst possible [thing] happened."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.