Recently, I had a chance to speak with several Brewers farmhands on the phone. It was a great opportunity and over the next couple of months, Brewerfan will be sharing our conversations with you!
Up first is Stephen Chapman. Stephen has been with the organization since he was taken with the 6th pick in the 2004 draft. He has spent the majority of his time in rookie ball, where he has performed very well. Stephen has risen to number 42 on the Power 50 and 28 in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook. He is poised to make a giant leap in prospect-dom as he moves up to West Virginia.
Bf.net: Ok, well the first thing I want to know is: Do you know anything about Brewerfan.net?
SC: Yeah, whenever I signed a couple of years ago it was a big thing --- I checked it out all the time; but I've known about it for a couple of years now and I check it out every now and then myself.
Bf.net: Cool, so do the players occasionally read up on stuff? I know we've got some parents who check in and tell us things, but we're not really sure what players are checking in...
SC: Oh yeah, my dad checks it all the time and reads up on everything really but I check it about once a month to see who's on the 50 and check out all the transactions and everything and see what's going on, but I think everyone does check it out a lot.
Bf.net: Did it make you happy to see yourself on the 50 at the end of the season?
SC: Yeah, it makes me happy to see it up there, but I've been up there before and I just get bumped back off in a couple weeks. Maybe I'll be able to stay up there longer.
Bf.net: Well you know you are in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook this year...
SC: Yeah, my agent called me up a couple days ago and told me about it and I was pretty excited. My Dad called and told me today as well.
Bf.net: That's pretty neat. Ok, so first real question here: Did it bother you, did it upset you, did you understand why you were in Helena last year?
SC: I don't really understand why exactly I went to Helena, I just assumed that the other outfielders beat me out at the start, you know. But yeah, I was aggravated about it because everyone wants to move up. But once I found out that Eddy Sedar was going to be coaching again it wasn't too bad. But it's really just the couple months of extended spring training---that's the real killer. I still don't know why, but I'm not upset---maybe I'll go to West Virginia this year and maybe get up to Florida at the end of the year---skip a couple levels and make up the time.
Bf.net: So, did you feel like it was an audition during your two weeks with West Virginia, or did they tell you that you were going back down?
SC: They didn't tell me anything. It was just after one of the games in Arizona they told me I was going to head up to West Virginia for a little bit... Kenny Holmberg has hurt is ankle and Michael Brantley and Darren Ford were hurt or something like that, and they told me I was going to go up there and play. They didn't tell me if it was going to be permanent or just a fill in or what. I got up there and in two weeks I went back down. I had the choice to just stay up there for another week and go to Montana or go down to Arizona for the last week and I chose to go back down to Arizona and keep playing in the games and get ready for the season up in Helena.
Bf.net: Was there something in particular the Brewers wanted you to work on up in Helena this year, or were you there just because of the numbers crunch?
SC: I mean, everyone has stuff they need to work on and one of my biggest things is consistency and timing with hitting and they told me that. I don't know if that was the main reason or what, but I'm sure it had a lot to do with it. They didn't really tell me anything---they don't really tell you to much, they just tell you where your going and that's really about it.
Bf.net: Ok, I was just wondering because we've heard in the past "oh, somebody needs to walk more or work on his defense before he can move up" and I was wondering if they had told you a similar thing...
SC: They didn't tell me anything really... I asked one of the coaches at the end of spring training---I wasn't complaining or anything, I was just curious as to why I didn't go up to West Virginia. But, I guess it was just numbers. It's all in the past though, and I'm not worried about it anymore.
Bf.net: There doesn't seem to be any reason why you wouldn't be in West Virginia this year, I mean it's not up to me (ha!) but you should definitely be there.
SC: Well, I'm looking forward to going---I hope I'm going. There are a lot of people, but hopefully they'll work it out.
Bf.net: Do you think it's daunting to see so many guys ahead of you, or do you think it's a challenge to jump over them?
SC: Well, you know, everyone likes competition, but I'd rather be the best out here. If you look at the numbers, there are so many guys ahead of me and they're really good players and I wonder "am I better than them? Am I really going to make it?" But you can't really worry about that. If you perform, you'll pass them up eventually. If you keep doing what you need to do; if you keep doing what the coaches want you to do---if you do your part, then you'll keep moving up and maybe knock those other guys off.
Bf.net: Well, another thing we were wondering was if you felt like something clicked last year, or if you just felt like it was more experience in Helena that helped you improve your batting average and take more walks and things like that?
SC: Well, I don't really even know. I wish I did so that next year I could do it again. But it did, you know, everything clicked there in Arizona in extended spring training. I don't know exactly what it was but I remember playing down there and I remember going---I think I had a hit in 30 games in a row or 35 games in a row. It was just crazy. It was just all clicking for me. I started working with one of our coaches on a daily basis down there---Johnny Narron, one of our hitting instructors---and he was the one that really introduced me to the Pujols style of hitting where you don't do much with your front foot, just get it down nice and soft. When I started working with him, everything just started clicking with me and I just tried to keep it going for the season, and for the most part I think it did.
Bf.net: To change the subject just a little bit: What caused you to sign with the Brewers instead of going to Auburn?
SC: I always wanted to play pro ball, you know, growing up that's all I wanted to do. I wanted to get drafted in the top five rounds for me to sign, but it was just kind of too good to pass it up... Doug Reynolds the scout that signed me is a really good friend of mine. The coach at Auburn at the time Coach Renfroe... he'd just gotten fired and they had not hired a new coach yet. I did not like going there and not knowing who the head coach was yet---who he was and what he was about. At the end, I felt that this was just the best decision and I went ahead and did it.
Bf.net: Do you consider taking walks an important part of your game?
SC: Oh yeah---that's probably what everyone needs to do---I need to do a lot more of it. Walks are huge. You get one walk and a past ball or a stolen base and your on second, then somebody gets a hit and that's a run right there. Walks are a huge part of the game and that's one thing I've been trying to work on lately.
Bf.net: Does your approach change with men on base?
SC: Yeah, I think for the most part. I mean, with nobody on you are just trying to put the ball in play and get on. But with a runner on second base--- I mean, it depends on the situation. With nobody out, close ball game, I'm trying to hit him over; I'm trying to get him in. If there's a runner on base, I'm just trying not to strike out. I'm just trying to do something. You can move him over, hit a sac fly, or anything to put the ball in play.
Bf.net: Ok, the does the same go with two strikes, are you just trying to get on at that point?
SC: With two strikes I think you have to. I don't really do anything different, but I'll widen out a little bit, maybe choke up just a little bit. Nothing huge, just really try to hit the ball right back up the middle. Not try to do too much with it; just put it in play like I said.
Bf.net: Do you see yourself as much of a power hitter? You had 6 homeruns last year...
SC: Yeah, I had 6 last year and 6 the year before. That's not really a power hitter. I consider myself a power hitter because I get a lot of doubles and triples, but I don't because I hit homeruns. I mean, my homeruns that do go out are wall scrapers for the most part. I mean, I love homeruns all the day long, but I love hitting doubles and triples and that's my big thing
Bf.net: Do you see yourself as strong against both right and left handed pitching? I was looking at your splits and it seems like you did pretty well against both, but do you feel comfortable facing both of them?
SC: Yes, well, at the start of last season I didn't feel comfortable facing lefties because the season before that we had all pretty good outfielders in the outfield up in Helena, my first season in Helena, so I didn't really play that much against lefties. So that's a whole season I didn't face lefties, pretty much. So, I think that hurt me a little bit, but once I got in the groove again; once I got everything working in Arizona hitting right and lefties was pretty much the same thing. So this year I had a homerun or two off of lefties and a few off of righties. I feel fine against lefties for the most part.
Bf.net: Did it bother you to be platooned?
SC: In rookie ball? Yeah it does---In the big leagues? I could care less. Anything to help the team out, but it is hard sometimes sitting on the bench 3 days in a row and then playing in one game and then coming off again. It is pretty rough. I'd much rather play every single day, don't get me wrong, but it's not that bad. I'd rather play.
Bf.net: I was wondering that one because it seems like the Brewers are going to have some guys in platoon this year that really don't want to be like Geoff Jenkins and Kevin Mench. Jenkins seems really upset about this, so I just wondered what it feels like at your level?
SC: Yeah, if I was in AAA or the big leagues to be a platoon guy at 21 years old, I wouldn't have a problem with it. But at rookie ball---it didn't bother me, but I just wanted to play, you know?
Bf.net: Last year you were 20 of 26 in stolen bases: Do you see yourself as a speed player? Do you see yourself running a lot, or was that something you were just doing out there?
SC: Yeah, I consider myself a speed guy. I mean, I've met a lot of guys faster than me, but I'm faster than lots of guys too. Most of the time it's not all about speed---it's about good breaks and reading balls and stuff like that. But, I do consider myself to be a speed guy. I like playing Center Field, which I don't know if I'll be playing this year, but I like running, I like stealing, I like running around in the outfield, so yeah, I consider myself a speed guy.
Bf.net: Do you feel the most comfortable in Center?
SC: Yeah, I feel a lot more comfortable in Center Field. I guess I'd play left or right, in the corners, but I played Center Field for all 4 years of high school and that's just where I feel comfortable. I don't mind left or right neither, but I'd don't think playing them is a disadvantage. If I had my choice I would pick Center Field.
Bf.net: I understand that completely. What kind of player would you like to be? What kind of player would you most like to resemble?
SC: Playing Style... Well, I know he's not my position, but my favorite player growing up was Cal Ripken Jr.---I would like to resemble him. But, my favorite outfielder---I would say Jim Edmonds. He's a lefty, he runs pretty good---If I could play like anyone I'd probably take Jim Edmonds.
Bf.net: Jumping to something different: Which of your teammates from Helena do you think has the brightest future? Besides yourself, of course...
SC: Well, I know from Helena... he got off to a pretty cold start and then turned it up 10,000 notches would be Cole Gillespie. He's got a good arm, plays good outfield, he's very athletic and good at hitting the ball. Cole does it all. Chris Errecart swings the bat very well too. I'd say the first one to make it to the majors from Helena would probably be Cole Gillespie.
BF.net: Have the Brewers given you the impression that you could reach Brevard County next year, or was that just you hoping.
SC: Nah, that was just me talking. I just want to make sure I make it to West Virginia. I'm not going to try to make it to Brevard or worry about Brevard. But I am from Florida so it would be cool to play there, but whatever they want to do, I'm happy with it.
Bf.net: I mean, I've been to Brevard, there's nothing to do there. I just thought you should know it's like a retirement community (I kid, I kid!) You're from the panhandle, right?
SC: I'm from Tallahassee...
Bf.net: Where do you see yourself at the beginning of the season, what if your goal going into Arizona?
SC: My goal going to Arizona is to not do too much starting off, juts make some good hard contact, steal some bases, just do everything that I need to do to prepare myself for the season. Stats don't really matter all that much in spring training, but I can work on my outfield breaks and work on getting the ball squared and work on getting good reads and stealing bases. Just work on the fundamentals. Not do too much trying to make a team. Just work hard and play hard and I'm sure I'll be fine.
Bf.net: Well, if everything goes perfect, where do you see yourself at the end of the season? You've kind of already answered that, but I was wondering...
SC: Well, I guess if everything goes perfect I see myself... well, I guess Brevard. I really just want to spend the whole year in West Virginia, not get sent down, you know? If everything went my way I'd play a full season in West Virginia, have a good year and move up to Brevard at the end of the year if they make the playoffs or something. That would be ideal.
Bf.net: Same question, but three years down the road?
SC: 3 years down the road?
Bf.net: I know it's hard to think that far ahead in this because it's changing every minute, but...
SC: Yeah, that's what I was thinking. I know 3 years ago I wasn't thinking I'd be in Single-A still. But, 3 years... 3 years I hope to be in AAA. I don't want to say big leagues because I have so many steps to go, but I'll play in West Virginia this year and have a good year; next year in Brevard, then AA and AAA. So hopefully, in 3 years I'll be in AAA. That's what I want: 3 years to AAA, I'll be 24 years old, that's perfect.
Bf.net: So, growing up, who did you follow, what team? You said Cal Ripken earlier and Jim Edmonds, but you're from the panhandle, so I have got to know.
SC: Well, I've lived in like 7 or 8 different states. We move around a lot, but I was born in Washington D.C., so I grew up liking the Orioles. There still my team today. I don't follow them too much---I'm not a diehard Orioles fan, but I definitely want them to win and stuff.
Bf.net: Did you follow the Brewers at all before they took you?
SC: No I didn't. I didn't even know the Brewers were a team. Nah, I'm just playing. I didn't really follow the Brewers. I knew about them though, like I said I'm good friends with the scout Doug Reynolds and he talked to me a little bit in high school, but I never followed the Brewers growing up.
Bf.net: Have you gotten a chance to meet any of the big league guys? Have you met Ned Yost?
SC: I have never---I've seen Ned Yost at the workouts at spring training. I've seen some of the guys, but I've never had a chance to sit down and talk with them and actually meet them. I've met Ned Yost Jr. and played with him, but I've not met any big league guys for the most part.
Bf.net: You should just grab one...
SC: yeah, grab one... see what good that does...
Bf.net: Pick a smaller one like Craig Counsell
SC: He could probably still beat me up
Bf.net: I doubt it, I doubt it. Well that's all the questions I've got for you, but I really appreciate you taking the time to do this...
SC: Well, I want to make sure you guys give shout out to Double Diamond Sports Management Guys, they really do a great job.
Bf.net: Well Thanks a lot! I look forward to seeing you when the Power come through Greensboro. Hopefully you'll be batting about .400 with 15 home runs and we can talk about that.
SC: Alright, Thank you!