By: Tom Joyce
Coral Springs native Kevin Chapman built himself as a serviceable left-handed pitcher for the Houston Astros over the past four seasons. Prior to this season, however, his career moved in a different direction.
Chapman, a resident of Coral Springs his whole life, graduated from Westminster Academy in 2006 and was selected in the 42nd round of the MLB draft out of high school but did not sign, however, ended up signing when he was picked in the 4th round of the 2010 MLB draft out of the University of Florida.
Placed on waivers during Spring Training, giving every team a chance to claim him before the Astros had a chance to send him to the minor leagues, it seemed at the time, as though he would start the year for their Triple-A affiliate, but the Atlanta Braves, coming off three straight losing seasons and are working on rebuilding their roster, had another idea.
Since priority in waiver claims is given to the teams with the worst records first and the best records last, the Braves pounced on the opportunity to add Chapman, claiming him the day after the Astros made the move.
For the rest of the spring, Chapman competed for a job in the Braves bullpen. While they ultimately did not end up carrying as many relievers as expected, he is settling in with the organization and their Triple-A affiliate, the Gwinnett Braves.
“It’s a good time. It’s just part of the game, moving from organization to organization,” Chapman said. “You’ve just roll with the punches and keep going forward.”
In the past, Chapman, who was initially drafted by the Kansas City Royals, had also been moved; prior to the 2012 season, he was put in a trade package and shipped to Houston in exchange for outfielder Jason Bourgeois and catcher Humberto Quintero, both of whom were big leaguers at the time. Since this year is not the first time he has had to adjust to a new organization, Chapman understands the business aspect of baseball and was not shocked by the Braves waiver claim this season.
“It’s just part of the game,” he said. “You don’t really have any stability. You could be traded at any point, so it’s whatever and you’ve got to be prepared for anything.”
In parts of four MLB seasons with the Astros, Chapman went 3-1 with a 4.09 ERA in 58 innings while striking out 48 batters in 55 innings. Albeit he is no longer a part of their system, Chapman looks back on his time with the Astros fondly.
“I’m thankful to that organization for a lot of things,” he said. “That’s where I got my first call-up and that’s pretty special. I learned a few things and met a lot of cool people. They’re big into the analytics over there and I got a little taste of that. I’m taking the positives from there and using them now.”
As he mentioned, many teams in recent years have put an emphasis on metrics and analytics when it comes to scouting, player development, and player performance. At times, advanced stats and pitching tendencies tracked by teams can help a player see what they are doing right and what could use work. Chapman said he picked up the habit of occasionally using analytics software and websites in hopes of improving his performance.
“It depends,” he said. “I don’t really use it as a staple but from time-to-time, if I’m struggling or if something is glaring, there’s certain things you can use quicker than just waiting and seeing what happens.”
Naturally, Chapman throws from a low three-quarter arm slot and while it would not be considered a sidearm motion, it does help him win battles against left-handed hitters–hence why they own a subpar .687 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) at the big league level.
“Left on left is tough for the hitter, so I’ve got the advantage there,” he said. “You’ve just got to mix up your pitches and keep them guessing.”
Certainly, being tough on left-handed batters is something that could help Chapman make it back up to the majors. The 29-year-old, who has allowed nine runs in 9 ⅓ innings this season, might not be off to his best start, but he acknowledged that his MLB experience could help him earn a potential call-up in the future.
“When you’ve been around it, you know what it takes to get there,” he said. “You’ve just got to get on a run. It takes a month or two of good consistent success – and then you never know what might happen.”