Featured image courtesy of the Boston Herald
When discussing the top position players in the Boston Red Sox farm system, it’s Michael Chavis and then everybody else. Chavis had a rough start to 2018 after receiving an 80-game PED suspension but bounced back to show that 2017 was no fluke. He dominated in Portland before joining the Pawtucket Red Sox for the final stretch of the minor league season. The former top-100 prospect should see his stock rise over the offseason and should find himself on the big league roster as soon as 2019.
Michael Chavis: Prospect Watch
While he has a lower ceiling than former Red Sox prospects Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi, and Xander Bogaerts, Chavis profiles as an eventual major league starter. A bat-first prospect, Chavis has shown significant power in each of the last two seasons.
After struggling from 2014 through 2016, Chavis found his swing in the 2017 season. Between High A Salem and AA Portland, Chavis hit a combined .282/.347/.563 with a 149 wRC+. His strong performance put him as one of just two Red Sox minor leaguers on the Top-100 prospect list.
After serving an 80-game suspension to start the 2018 season, Chavis came back and showed that 2017 was no fluke. After needing a week to knock off the rust, Chavis actually improved on his 2017 numbers, earning a late call-up to the AAA Pawtucket. All in all, Chavis finished his 2018 season with a .298/.381/.538 slash line to go along with a 158 wRC+.
As evidenced by his .913 OPS over the past two seasons, Chavis has legit power. Chavis’ strikeout rate over the past two seasons is a bit higher than you’d like at 23.0%, but that’s no reason for long-term worry. He has the bat skills to be a major leaguer, and his progression over the past two seasons shows that he should be ready sooner rather than later.
Chavis As a Fielder
While Chavis’ bat could be ready for major league action, his fielding is still a work in progress. Chavis always showed better promise as a hitter than a fielder, and his work at third base backed that assessment. Fangraphs doesn’t track defensive metrics for minor leaguers, but all reports say that he was a fairly unremarkable defensive third baseman.
Blocking his path to the majors is current Red Sox third baseman, Rafael Devers. The Red Sox clearly believe in Devers as a third baseman, and thus Chavis will not make the majors at third. Instead, the 23-year old prospect has started playing first base.
The results so far have been mixed. While he wasn’t expected to turn into a Gold Glover overnight, he hasn’t impressed with his defensive duties. Still, by all accounts, he’s been a slightly subpar defensive first baseman. With a bat like his, the Red Sox can live with subpar defense.
While he never played the position during 2018, there are rumors the Red Sox want to try Chavis at second base. This makes sense, as Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce are in line to platoon first base for 2019. While Chavis has a chance to be the 2020 first baseman, at this point it’s best he learns how to play multiple positions on the diamond.
The Future of Chavis
At the rate he’s going, it would be astonishing if Chavis didn’t make the majors in 2019. While he may not have a clear position, his bat is too good to leave in Pawtucket. Injuries are inevitable, and Chavis is likely a better utility option than Eduardo Nunez.
The Red Sox are right on the luxury tax line and need to save money wherever they can. Incorporating Chavis (and his rookie contract) into the mix is the best way to do that. However, Chavis could probably use more time in Pawtucket, if for no other reason than to work on his defense.
Dustin Pedroia, in theory, will be back for the 2019 season. However, his streaky health history means it’s unlikely he makes it through an entire 162-game season. Even if Pedroia stays healthy, Chavis should earn a promotion as soon as he’s comfortable defensively. Expect Chavis to platoon with Pedroia in 2019 while also playing third and perhaps even a little bit of first base.