Oakland A’s fans already know about Matt Chapman. He’s an elite defender at third base, and it’s easy to argue he’s already the best in the sport at his position. He wasn’t eligible for Gold Glove voting last year because he didn’t play enough innings in his half-season debut, but he was among the MLB leaders in the advanced metrics at his position and he finished runner-up for the Fielding Bible at 3B despite playing only 84 games.
Now the rest of the country can begin to learn the gospel of Chaptain America, as he finally got his name on a piece of hardware. On Thursday, Chapman was named the MLB Defensive Player of the Month by Sports Info Solutions (previously known as Baseball Info Solutions, creators of the DRS stat). Note that this distinction isn’t just calling him the top third baseman for March/April, but the top defender at any position — he beat out two other finalists, 3B Jose Ramirez and RF Nick Markakis.
Of course, here at Athletics Nation we know this is only a small taste of things to come. From where we’re sitting he already looks like a lock for the Gold Glove, especially since last year’s winner (Evan Longoria) moved to the NL and another 2017 finalist (Manny Machado) moved to shortstop. The third finalist was Ramirez, who is clearly still a factor, but otherwise the field is as open as it’s been in a while — it’s tough to see recent winners like Kyle Seager or 39-year-old Adrian Beltre keeping up with these new standouts.
All that said, Ramirez could be a legitimate challenger. The Cleveland star came up as a middle infielder and has quite a bit of name power behind him, having finished third in league MVP voting last summer. Ramirez also currently holds the statistical edge entering Thursday, in both DRS and UZR, but of course that means little with 80% of the season still remaining. The point is, this isn’t a shoo-in yet.
One way or the other, though, Chapman has won the first round in what could become a two-man battle against Ramirez. He was the best defender at 3B or anywhere for the season’s first five weeks. Now all he needs is five more months of making plays like this one, and he should get himself some real full-season recognition.