Marcus Semien was one of the most valuable pieces for the Blue Jays in 2021, where they missed the playoffs but just a game.
Yesterday, I wrote an article comparing Toronto’s Kevin Gausman to the former Blue Jay, turned Seattle Mariner, Robbie Ray. In this article, we’ll look at how Matt Chapman has done to replace Marcus Semien.
The Blue Jays signed Marcus Semien to a one-year, “show-me” deal. Suffice it to say, he performed incredibly well, cashing in on a fantastic 2021 season. On November 29th, 2021, he signed with the Texas Rangers, the same day Ray left.
Unlike the Ray/Gausman scenario, the Jays didn’t have an immediate replacement. In fact, it took them nearly four months to acquire Semien’s replacement, Matt Chapman. On March 16th, 2022, the Jays traded 2021 first round Gunnar Hoglund, third baseman Kevin Smith, lefty starter Zach Logue, and reliever Kirby Snead.
Furthermore, this wasn’t a direct replacement, as the departing Semien played second base, whereas Chapman plays third base. However, the team shifted the Santiago Espinal and Cavan Biggio platoon from third to second, so it’s close enough.
Let’s look at Semien’s 2021 first.
It didn’t start so hot for Semien though, as he slashed .216/.294/.371 with five homers in 109 plate appearances in his first month. He had a 10.1 BB% and a 25.7K%. However, in his remaining games, he had a .275/.342/.567 slash line with forty homers (the most ever for a second baseman), along with an 8.9 BB% and 19.3 K% in 617 plate appearances.
All told, Semien finished 2021 with a .265/.334/.538 slash line, with 45 homers and a 9.1 BB% and 20.2 K% in 724 plate appearances.
Not only did Semien finish third in the AL MVP voting, but he also won the American League Gold Glove for second base. Semien finished with a 10 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and a 7 Outs Above Average (OAA).
Matt Chapman’s 2021:
Chapman himself was the recipient of multiple Gold Gloves (and even a couple of Platinum Gloves) in years prior, but how did he do in 2021?
With the bat? Not so great. He had a .210/.314/.403 slash line with 27 homers in 622 plate appearances. He had an incredibly high 32.5 K%, and a solid 12.9 BB%, for a wRC+ of 102. It was a sharp decline from his 2018 season where he posted a .278/.356/.508 slash line with 24 homers, and a K% of 23.7% and BB% of 9.4% for a total wRC+ of 139.
Even defensively, there was a little slip as he had a DRS of 10 and an OAA of 17, which sounds like Gold Glove calibre statistics (because it is). However, his DRS was down from 28 in 2019. However, his OAA of 17 was the highest of his career (15 was his previous high in 2019).
Marcus Semien’s 2022:
Just like in 2021, Semien’s 2022 started off really slow. Like even worse than last season’s slow. Between April 8th and June 11th, Semien slashed .218/.275/.347 with six homers and a 7.3 BB% and 16.2 K% in 253 plate appearances. Up until this point, he had a 76 wRC+, lower than the 79 wRC+ he had after his first month in 2021.
On May 14th, Semien had a .154/.215/.203 slash line, with no homers and a 6.7 BB% and an 18.5 K% in 135 plate appearances. This was a wRC+ of 19, big oof. However, from June 11th onwards, he had a .267/.323/.482 slash line with 20 homers in 464 plate appearances. This features a 7.5 BB% and a 16.6 K% for a much-improved wRC+ of 127.
Overall this season, Semien is slashing .250/.307/.435 with a 7.5 BB% and 16.5 K% in 158 plate appearances. Even though he didn’t hit a homer for over a month and a half, he finished with 26 homers, maybe even more in his final week.
He’s still the same defensively, posting a 10 DRS and a 7 OAA, but the Blue Jays were able to cover the defensive side of second base, which you can read right here. Was Semien’s replacement able to replace his offense?
Matt Chapman’s 2022:
Long story short, no. The thing is, whoever the Jays brought in to fill Semien’s shoes was never going to replace the production that Marcus Semien had in 2021.
Semien’s 2021 was so special, that even he wouldn’t have come close to reaching the same level. He broke the record for the most homers from a second baseman and was pretty high up there for shortstops. Add on phenomenal defense, it’s safe to say that this was a historic season.
That doesn’t mean that Matt Chapman wouldn’t try. There are two games remaining (possibly one), so I feel comfortable listing off his statistics even if they won’t be accurate in the upcoming days.
In his first season with the Jays, Chapman had a .229/.324/.435 slash line with 27 homers in 618 plate appearances. His K% dropped from 32.5% to 27.5%, while his BB% dropped slightly to 10.8%. Overall, he had a 118 wRC+, falling quite short of Semien’s 131 wRC+ in 2021.
Defensively, it wasn’t a Chapman season, at least statistically. I think we can all agree that Chapman is a plus, maybe even a plus plus defender at third base. He has great range, fantastic instincts, and a powerful arm that allows him to make plays the average third base couldn’t.
However, Chapman had a 2 DRS and a 1 OAA at the position this season, well below his 10 DRS and 17 OAA in 2021. Why? Well, I’ve heard a few theories.
One of the more popular theories is that he didn’t benefit from the acres of foul ground as he did at the Oakland Coliseum. It’s actually called the Ring Central Coliseum now, Honestly, just move the team to Vancouver already.)
However, the SkyDome (or “Rogers Centre”) has the second largest foul territory, something I didn’t know until the renovation plans were announced. Either way, Oakland’s foul territory is significantly more vast than Toronto’s
Another theory I had was due to the turf, which is more feasible. Chapman had hip surgery before the 2021 season, which could explain the awful 2020 season he had offensively. As you may know, turf absolutely kills the body, and perhaps it hurts his ability to range the hot corner.
I sadly couldn’t find the great Twitter thread for the last theory, but I remember someone bringing up the mental aspect of making the throws. It has led to some of them being late or high. This seems the most plausible to me, but Chapman’s average defensive numbers may be a mix of all three or even an overlooked factor.
Using Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR), Chapman has a 4.1 fWAR, while Semien has a 4.2 fWAR. While Chapman was never going to replace Semien’s 2021, he had played to a well above average standard and has similar statistics to the player he replaced.
How are the prospects involved doing:
In the last article, I looked at how the drafted player was doing with Ray’s compensation pick. Marcus Semien also received a qualifying offer, meaning the Jays got the 77th overall pick in the 2022 MLB draft. Furthermore, we’ll look at the other prospects who went to Oakland for Matt Chapman.
Starting with the least touted player, we have reliever Kirby Snead.
This season with the Oakland Athletics, he posted a 6.02 ERA and 4.66 FIP in 43.1 innings pitched. He also had a 17 K% and a 10.7 BB% in that stretch and looks to be a low leverage guy.
In his brief time with Oakland’s Triple A team, he posted a 4.61 ERA and 2.76 FIP in 13.2 innings pitched.
The 27-year-old posted a 2.35 ERA and 2.52 FIP in 7.2 innings pitched with the Jays last season. He was unable to travel with his new team in Toronto in mid-April and was placed on the COVID-19 IL, so you can take a wild guess as to potentially why he was in the package.
Interestingly, Zach Logue was one of the players to replace Kirby Snead when the A’s made their one-time trip to Canada in 2022.
The 26-year-old lefty posted a 6.79 ERA and a 5.76 FIP in 57 innings pitched in the Majors. He also had a 16.3 K% and a 7.8 BB%. Logue wasn’t really getting batters out with strikeouts, which he did last season with the Fisher Cats, where he posted a 35.9 K%.
His numbers with the Las Vegas Aviators (Oakland’s Triple A team) were even worse, posting an 8.12 ERA and an 8.20 FIP in 78.2 innings pitched. Last season with the Buffalo Bisons, he had a 25.2 K%, but this dropped to a 15.3 K% with Oakland’s AAA team.
However, numbers only tell us about the past and not the future, and Logue has the ceiling to be a good fifth starter, so he’ll be looking for a bounce-back season in 2023.
He had a dispersed 36 plate appearances last season with the Jays but didn’t look great. The same happened with the Oakland Athletics in 2022, where he posted a .180/.216/.302 slash line in 151 plate appearances. He had a 4.6 BB% and a 27.8 K%, for a wRC+ of 48.
Even looking at his overall minor numbers from 2022, he wasn’t great. He posted a .268/.331/.446 slash line with 13 homers in 370 plate appearances. He also had a 30.3 K% and a 7.8 BB% for a wRC+ of 90.
When you dig deeper into his numbers, you can see why I believed he deserved a shot in Toronto.
His first month after getting optioned was not good. He slashed .188/.258/.205 with an 8.1 BB% and a 33.9 K% in 124 plate appearances. He also didn’t hit a homer, which led to a 20 wRC+. From then on out though, he looked fantastic.
In his final two months of the season (July 27th to September 28th), he slashed .316/.376/.585 with 13 homers, an 8 BB%, and a 29 K% for a wRC+ of 132. Now, you may say this is because he was playing in the Pacific Coast League and playing in thin air, but this just isn’t the case.
Last season, the Jays allowed Smith to bring back his uppercut swing. In return, he was the Bisons’ best player throughout the season. He slashed .285/.470/.561 with 21 homers in 410 plate appearances. He also had a career-high 11.2 BB% and a 23.7 K%. If not for his call-up to the Blue Jays, Smith also probably could have had 20 steals, making him a 20/20 player.
The last point in this section is in terms of his defense. Realistically, Smith could stick at shortstop with a strong arm and great range. However, at third base with the Athletics, he posted a 5 DRS and a 3 OAA, which statistically, is better than Chapman’s defensive numbers.
Is he better than Chapman? No. Will he be better than Chapman at any point? More than likely, no. It is interesting, however.
Being traded for the first time in your professional career may be tough, especially after spending five years with the organization. While Smith had a pretty poor season overall, I don’t think it’s fair to judge him as a player until he fully settles into the A’s organization.
The 19th overall pick in the 2021 draft was “the prospect” that made this deal work.
The 22-year-old righty underwent Tommy John a few months before being selected by the Jays. Originally, prospect sites had him going in the top 10. His ceiling is great, but his floor is what made him stand out in the 2022 draft class.
He made his professional debut in the summer, first in the Arizona Complex League, with a 0 ERA and 1.46 FIP in just five innings, with a K% of 35% (no walks). He made a start with their Low A team, posting a 0 ERA and 4.48 FIP in three innings pitched, with a 7.7 K% and BB% in an extremely short sample size.
There is a world where this trade bites the Jays in the ass, but it’d require Hoglund to hit his ceiling, and then some. Chapman would also have to falter in 2023 and not re-sign with the Jays.
Overall, this was a pretty darn good trade and will continue to be one unless Hoglund becomes an ace or something. Even then, that’s far down the road to even worry about right now.
Now, let’s look at the prospect the Jays drafted with the compensation pick.
Tucker Toman was selected out of high school with the 77th overall selection. The 18-year-old wasn’t your everyday late second rounder, as he was expected to be selected in the first round.
MLB Pipeline had him as their 35th best draft prospect, Baseball America had him as their 40th best draft prospect, and Prospects Live had him as their 44th best draft prospect.
The Jays over-slotted the heck out of Toman, signing him to a bonus of $2 million, well over the $846,900 slot limit. To make Toman affordable, the Jays selected a bunch of relievers and college seniors (and a grad student) in rounds 4-10. This included reliever T.J Brock, who hits 100 mph and gets a ton of whiffs.
How did the switch-hitting prospect perform though? Well, Toman was assigned to the Florida Complex League team, where he slashed .289/.391/.368 in 46 plate appearances. He didn’t hit a home run, but he had three doubles and a 15.2 BB%. His K% of 26.1 was on the high side, but he had a 119 wRC+ in his first professional season. Not too shabby.
How did the Jays fair:
Overall, I think the Jays did an incredible bit of business here. Semien and Chapman are having a similar season. While Chapman hasn’t provided the same product as Semien did in 2021, it was incredibly unlikely that the Jays were ever going to fully replace that production.
In terms of prospects, I personally miss Smith, who may become an MLB regular. Losing Hoglund may hurt in the future, but prospects are just a maybe. Furthermore, Toman had a great first season and has the ceiling to be a pretty darn good player in the future.
Tomorrow we’ll be comparing Randal Grichuk and Raimel Tapia, as well as Adrian Pinto. We’ll focus not just on the statistics, but how it was a masterpiece of front office work.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.