Matt Chapman's first full season in the Minor Leagues didn't exactly get off to the right start. A recent power surge has done more than just put him back on the right track. It's put him full-steam ahead.
The A's No. 3 prospect homered for the fifth time in six games Saturday night as Class A Advanced Stockton trounced Modesto, 13-2, at John Thurman Field.
The homer came late, with the game almost out of reach. With the Ports leading, 9-2, in the top of the eighth, the right-handed-hitting third baseman went deep to center for a two-run shot off a 2-0 offering from left-handed reliever Sam Moll.
"I was just looking for a fastball over the plate because it was a good hitter's count," Chapman said. "When I got it, I just tried to put my best swing on it and, thankfully, was able to put it out."
The hit was Chapman's only one of the night, but it was noteworthy all the same given his recent power production.
Drafted with the 24th overall pick last June, the former Cal State-Fullerton slugger was set to start his first full season in the Minors this spring before tearing his left LCL in a offseason running drill. That kept him out of action until May 7. Upon his return, Chapman struggled in his introduction to the California League, hitting .167 with two homers and 15 strikeouts in his first 10 games.
"I definitely started out a little slow," he said. "You can get ready and prepare all you want, but until you face real pitchers in real game situations, you don't know just quite how it's going to go. It's going to take you a good 30 or 40 at-bats before everything is back where it should be. And that's what happened to me."
Things looked like they finally clicked into place on May 31 when Chapman notched his first career multi-homer game. He also went deep the following game before adding long balls Friday and Saturday to give him five in his last six contests and eight in 26 games this season. He acknowledged the two-homer performance just might have been the kickstart he needed.
"Looking back on it, maybe," he said. "At the time, it just felt like I had run into a good game. I hadn't done something like that in a long time, so I was just happy I helped the team out. In the next games after, I was just trying to build off that, I guess: repeat my swing, repeat the little things that made it happen."
Part of what went into the two-homer game and the blasts that have followed is the result of work done with Stockton hitting coach Brian McArn and A's hitting coordinator Greg Sparks, who tried to loosen up the organization's most recent first-rounder. Despite a .243 batting average that was hurt by his early struggles, a .553 slugging percentage and .881 OPS show the work is paying off.
"They just wanted me to be more free and easy," Chapman said. "We've been working on making my swing more repeatable and getting it shorter to the ball. Nothing's going to be perfect, but we're trying to get it so it's more consistent, and it feels that way now."
Ports second baseman Branden Cogswell went 2-for-5 with a double, a walk, three RBIs and a run scored. Left fielder B.J. Boyd tripled twice, drove in two runs and scored three from the bottom of the lineup.
Sam Dykstra is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.