A Closer Look: Chance Chapman

We move on to our second installment of A Closer Look, but we don’t move very far, staying in Clearwater to take a look at Threshers pitcher Chance Chapman.

Chapman was the Phillies’ 8th Round Pick in 2007 out of Oral Roberts, and he signed almost immediately for a $20K bonus.  BA had this to say about him when he was taken…

Chapman’s strikeout pitch is a big league slider, and he also has an 88-91 mph fastball with life. When he commands his fastball, he’s tough to hit. Chapman’s age works against him, as he’s 23 after spending three years at Cuesta (Calif.) Junior College and missing all of 2004 with an injury.

Now in his third season of pro ball, I think it’s fair to assess what Chapman has achieved so far, and project where his career might be headed.  Check below the jump as we tackle the numbers.

As mentioned, Chapman wasted no time signing and reported to the NYPL in 2007.  As a 23-year old in the pitching-dominated league, he took care of business, making the All-Star team and posting the following line:

2007 (A-, Age 23): 77.2 IP — 7.8 K/9 — 2.3 BB/9 — 52.3% GB — 1.16 WHIP — 2.21 DICE

A solid performance, tempered of course by his age.  Still, given the supposedly plus slider, it made Chapman an intriguing candidate for conversion to a bullpen role.  You’ve undoubtedly heard the logic before, but it bears repeating — the idea is that a guy will be able to scrap his marginal pitches, concentrate on his two best offerings, and add a few ticks to his velocity since he can gear up in one- and two-inning bursts.  This seemed to be the best way forward for Chapman, and though he began 2008 in the Lakewood rotation, I wondered if the Phils were going to have him go the Pat Overholt route, i.e. have Chance pitch as a starter in order to better develop his offerings, and promote him midseason with an eye toward having him ready for the bullpen within a year or two (see Overholt’s 2007 season here).

Unfortunately for Chance, that turned out not to be the case.  This is just speculation on my part, but I wonder if: (1) the relative dearth of starting pitching options in Lakewood, at least until the Worley/Stutes/Cisco trio arrived; and (2) the fact that the BlueClaws were in a pennant race; were the primary factors that conspired to keep Chapman in Lakewood for the entirety of the season.  Whatever the case, he once again posted solid numbers:

2008 (A, Age 24): 139.0 IP — 7.6 K/9 — 2.4 BB/9 — 51.1% GB — 1.22 WHIP — 2.73 DICE

And so at Age 25, entering his third season in pro ball, Chapman has finally been shifted to the bullpen for the Threshers.  There’s reason to believe he may have some success in that role, too.  He doesn’t show a noticeable platoon split, holding LHB to a a career .253 BAA and RHB to a career .244 BAA, and his ground ball tendencies have cut down on both the extra bases hits and the home runs allowed (just 7 in 216.2 IP heading into this year).  Finally, while his peripherals have generally stayed strong from inning to inning, it appears from the numbers that his stuff is a bit more hittable the deeper Chapman goes into a game.  Here’s his career batting average against figures by inning:

1st: .192
2nd: .236
3rd: .233
4th: .255
5th: .262
7th: .333

That, of course, lends further credence to the idea that Chapman’s stuff, and numbers, would only improve with a shift to a relief role.

So far this year, Chapman made a spot start as part of a make-up doubleheader on April 16, and he’s been used out of the bullpen twice.  It’s certainly a miniscule sample size, but in his two relief outings totaling 3.2 innings, Chapman has surrendered 1 hit, 0 runs, walked 2 and struck out 4.   On Sunday, he was used as a set-up man, and pitched a hitless, scoreless inning (inducing 2 groundouts and 1 flyout) to bridge the gap from starter Yohan Flande to closer Jared Simon.

Based on the career numbers and his repertoire, I think Chapman has a future as a reliever.  If he posts solid numbers for the Threshers through the first half of the season, the organization should not hesistate to bump him to Reading by midseason.  Many might look at Chapman and see organizational filler, but I see a guy with a chance to help the major league club in the bullpen by 2010 or 2011 at the latest — and when you have someone who can do that for 3 years at the major league minimum, it’s a valuable asset.

20 thoughts on “A Closer Look: Chance Chapman

  1. Yeah, why not. Better to find a guy like Chapman for the 11th or 12th man on the staff than to pay, say, $2.5 million for a free agent reliever who thinks he’s a starter, and actually somehow convinces his bosses to that effect. Just hypothetically, of course.

  2. dajafi
    gotya I was upset by that too It seems like that hypothetically
    did some damage to the team feeling

  3. I love these closer look segments. Really magnifies a prospects positives and negatives instead of saying throwing a blanket statement over ones that simply appear similar on the surface.

    I really like Chapman as a reliever, and I like what the Phils are doing in grooming their own bullpen (Bastardo, Rosenberg, Schwimer, Bergh) for the future so they won’t have to go out and spend big money for a final roster spot. The logic is undeniable, and all we can do is hope these guys pan out.

  4. FWIW, Clay Condrey makes the major league minimum. $650 for a third year player. A first year player would make ~$400K. So it isn’t that the Phils are wasting money on the last man in the bullpen.

  5. I don’t think Condrey should be viewed as the last man in the bullpen. In any fair world, that would be Taschner.

  6. Taschner=825K. Obviously the salary is twice as much as the rookie minimum, but still nowhere 2.5

  7. So his upside is Clay Condrey…alot of guys would be happy with that. Condrey is a very good mopup guy. Not that that’s saying much. Though it would still make him better than 99% of all people that have ever pitched in a competitive game.

  8. I don’t think Friar makes nearly enough of Chapman’s age. To me, the question is whether there’s any precedent for guys his age having any success. I looked at the 2000 and 2001 SALLY rosters for each team in the league. Not a single player who began SALLY as a 24 Y/O played in the majors (outside of a handful of rehabbing ML vets).

    Chapman’s been competing against prospects who are 2-4 years younger than him and non-prospects who are roughly his same age. The inning he had Sunday as a setup man he faced three younger non-prospects who were hitting 8-9-1 for Tampa. I just don’t see how you can reasonably think he’s going to be a useful ML pitcher when guys in his “demographic” have virtually no track record for success.

  9. Sometimes you catch lightening in a bottle and find someone who turns into a prospect. Not saying Chapman is, but being an 8th rounder a least indicates some talent. If he’s coachable, you never know. His age certainly doesn’t help.

  10. PMD: I don’t think I’m at all brushing aside questions about Chapman’s age. There’s a very real possibility that he’s just dominating inferior competition, and that his success will dry up as he climbs the ladder. But two counterpoints, if I may…

    1.) It’s certainly not his fault that the Phillies have refused to promote him with any kind of aggression; Chapman probably shouldn’t have spent any time in the SAL last year, let alone the entire year. But the fact that he wasn’t promoted certainly wasn’t due to any failing on his part (at least, that’s what the numbers show us).

    2.) I don’t doubt that not a single 24-year old from the 2000 and 2001 SAL made the majors, but there are extenuating circumstances here. How many of those 24-year olds were entering their first full season of pro ball (as opposed to organizational filler types, a la Javis Diaz, who bounces around between levels to fill holes)? How many put up numbers anywhere in Chapman’s neighborhood? That would be a more useful sample, yes?

    Dajafi and The Artist have hit on the key point: even if Chapman only makes it as a middle reliever, there’s certainly value there. I think his ceiling — however slight the chances he reaches it — is actually a bit higher than Condrey’s since he actually has some kind of strikeout pitch in addition to the groundball tendencies. But I would certainly settle for a Condrey-type career path — a low- to mid-4.00 FIP from a guy under team control.

  11. I am also in the camp that thinks Chapman is a fringe prospect. For some reason the Phils have been slow to promote him despite success – like Jeremy Slayden. As a 25 yr old minor league reliever, time is running out though.

  12. I’ve been impressed with what Chapman has done the last two years, and am surprised to only now see him in Clearwater. We’ll see what happens from here…

  13. Chapman, although 25, has an arm of a 22-23 year old. Knock on wood that he has never had any arm problems. Hard worker and his velocity is up 2-3 mph this year. He throws a live two seamer and as people have stated, has a ML slider. ,Chapman as I see it is a diamond in the rough and the Phillies should polish him as a reliever. I think he bodes better than Brummits numbers

  14. “Humbabe Says:
    April 23, 2009 at 12:22 am
    Chapman, although 25, has an arm of a 22-23 year old. Knock on wood that he has never had any arm problems. Hard worker and his velocity is up 2-3 mph this year.”

    What have you seen him throw this year? Last year he was 87-88 mph.

  15. Especially with a RHP, that extra 2-3 mph can make a huge difference. Good to see the shift to the bullpen has let him add a few ticks to his velocity; with a fringe average fastball and a potentially plus slider, there’s certainly hope for him going forward.

    Thanks for the info, Humbabe.

  16. 1 month into season and Chapman hasn’t given up a run in relief. Philly Friar – perhaps your suggestion that Chapman may be dominating inferior competition could be correct. However, If that is the case then the Phils need to see what they have in him and move him up to next level, especially bc of his age. 91 on the gun and a solid slider with a WHIP and ERA of less than 1.00. His numbers in the SAL were more than solid despite the W&L’s. Phils have no reason to hold him back.

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