Updated at 8 p.m. to reflect final results.
Cal State Fullerton head basemall coach Rick Vanderhook used to tell Matt Chapman that there was no way he came out of Orange County. He was too tough.
On Monday, Chapman — participating in his first Home Run Derby the day before his first All-Star Game — had a sufficiently tough assignment: Hit more home runs in four minutes and 30 seconds than he’d hit in any of his three big league seasons.
Chapman — known more for his Platinum Glove than for his power hitting — put on a respectable showing in the first round at Cleveland’s Progressive Field, slugging 13 homers. The 26-year old third Oakland A’s third baseman, though, couldn’t match the single-round round-record 29 hit by Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and made an early exit.
A little over 24 hours ago, Chapman got a text message informing him that a replacement was needed for Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich in the derby. The reigning National League MVP had elected to pull out of the derby to save his back for Tuesday’s All-Star Game, where he’ll be hitting leadoff. Chapman didn’t hesitate to say yes, and he brought his father Jim — who works at a printing company —to throw to him.
“I never thought I’d be here in a million years,” Chapman told reporters before the event. “We always joked if I were here, he’d throw to me.”
The two used to watch the Home Run Derby together, and Chapman had gone to the Home Run Derby in Anaheim nine years ago, when he was just coming into his own at nearby El Toro High School. The next season, he hit .422, but having been a late bloomer — he went from 5-foot-2 as a freshman to 6-foot-1, 195 pounds as a senior — he wasn’t picked in the Major League Draft. Instead, he headed to play under Vanderhook at Fullerton, and became a first-rounder in 2014.
Though Chapman showed power over his first big league action — he hit 14 in 84 games in 2017, and 24 in 145 last season — he’s quietly become one of the most dangerous hitters in the league, slugging .534 — 26th in baseball and seventh among third basemen.
On a team with fellow Gold Glover Matt Olson — who has hit 19 home runs in 58 games since returning from a broken hamate bone — and the prodigious Khris Davis, it was Olson who was chosen to replace Yelich. Chapman leads Oakland with 21 home runs in 89 games, and is on pace for 35 this season.
Though he hit just one homer over 440 feet this season — tied for the lowest in the Derby’s field — he put three of his first seven over 440, earning an extra 30 seconds. His first — a 442-footer — landed three rows from the back of the Progressive Field left field bleachers. His longest came shortly thereafter, when he pulled his hands inside of a ball that looked to run in, and sent it out at 110 mph. It landed 473 feet away.
Chapman’s average home distance was 433 feet — second to Guerrero in the first round — and he owned two of the furthest balls in the opening round, both traveling 473 feet. Guerrero — who has nine homers since being called up a month into the season — beat the previous single-round record by one, and hit six over 440, including one that traveled 476 feet. Guerrero — whose father won the event in 2007 at then-AT&T Park in San Francisco — tied his own single-round record with 29 more homers in the second round. Guerrero then went into an extra period and two swing-offs before beating the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson.
Guerrero lost in the final round to fellow rookie Pete Alonso of the New York Mets.