Especially from an outsider’s perspective, it is tempting to say that Collin Chapman’s selection in the 33rd round by the Tampa Bay Rays does not mean much. Someone could say “How difficult can it be to become the 988th player selected? If I had wanted to spend all my time in college playing baseball and not having a life, even I could have been picked that low!” Of course, one of the top 1500 prospects in the country in a given year is more difficult that it sounds, but specifically in the case of Collin Chapman, it is incredible that he did enough to catch the Rays’ eyes.
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Chapman is a 6’1″, 210 right-hander out of Lamar College, which is in Division I (unlike the schools of the previous two Rays picks), but certainly isn’t the most well-known college. He just finished his redshirt junior season, and after appearing in 15 games as a freshman in 2012, he saw time in just 14 games combined the last three seasons. Chapman was a medical redshirt in 2013 and then required Tommy John Surgery in March of 2014. Chapman’s combination of injuries and a small school had to take him off the radars of almost every team in baseball.
However, the two things working in his favor were his stuff coming of high school and the flashes he showed in small sample sizes in college. As a senior out at Leander High School in Texas, he showed nice downward plane on a fastball touching 93 MPH, and he also showed promise with a curveball that featured sharp late break at its best. However, his first major injury, a pinched nerve in his neck that led to numbness in his arm, also surfaced in high school, and that proved to be more of a sign of things to come than his strong prep performance.
After a mediocre freshman year, Collin Chapman looked good enough to begin his sophomore year that everyone thought he had turned a corner. He began the season at 3-0 with a 3.33 ERA in his first 4 starts, averaging just under 7 innings per outing and tossing a complete game. However, he never pitched again the remainder of the season. Then, after making just one solid start in 2014 before surgery, he responded well enough in his rehab that he wound up in a weekend starter role for Lamar in his last 5 outings. He was far from dominant, managing a 4.50 ERA, but it says a lot that the team trusted him in such a major capacity after his injury.
Chapman’s injury problems likely stemmed from his delivery. Chapman has a long stride before delivering the ball from a high three-quarters arm slot that adds deception but also requires effort. He was able to smooth his motion out to an extent in college–it certainly wasn’t as violent as it was in high school–and it will be interesting to see whether the Rays try to continue that or look to remake his delivery entirely. As we have talked about quite a bit after the Rays’ recent injuries, so often it is the same windup that leads to a pitcher’s success that causes him to get hurt. Could Chapman still be impressive with a different motion?
Collin Chapman is a long shot to advance far in professional baseball after his injury-prone college tenure, but the fact that the Tampa Bay Rays selected him tells us that they really thought highly of him when healthy. We will have to see whether Chapman joins the long list of players whose careers were derailed by injuries or recaptures that potential he once had on his way to a nice pro career.
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