With Michael Chavis tearing up the majors, the Boston Red Sox farm system needs a top infield depth option. Outside of Tzu-Wei Lin, the Pawtucket Red Sox don’t have many major league caliber players. Fortunately, the Portland Sea Dogs have one of the best infield prospects in C.J. Chatham. Chatham entered the season as one of the top prospects in the system but has brought his play to another level in 2019.
Red Sox Rising Prospects: C.J. Chatham
Chatham made his AA debut at the start of the season and has played some of his best baseball. Appearing in 24 games, the former second-round pick has compiled a .337/.386/.449 slash line with an accompanying 145 wRC+. The slugging percentage and wRC+ would be career-highs, which is truly impressive considering the competition. The jump from Single-A to AA is supposed to be one of the hardest in baseball, yet Chatham has masterfully handled the increased difficulty.
Perhaps what’s most encouraging about Chatham’s season is his increased power. The shortstop has always has decent power potential, but had never put it together on the diamond. While he’ll never hit 30 home runs in a season, he’s shown an increased ability to get the ball in the air and get extra bases. Chatham already has 10 doubles in his 89 at-bats. By comparison, last season Chatham had just 14 doubles, one triple, and three home runs in 362 at-bats at High-A Salem.
Chatham’s calling card has always been his defense, and the shortstop continues to boast excellent range and arm for the position. Xander Bogaerts is blocking the position at the major league level, but Chatham could easily thrive as a second baseman at the major league level. Michael Chavis is a godsend, but he could move over to first base to accompany Chatham.
The Underlying Numbers
Chatham has a bright future, and most of the underlying numbers suggest that this success is here to stay. So far in the season, Chatham is striking out on just 13.9% of his at-bats. This would be the lowest full-season strikeout rate of his career, and he’s also drawing more walks than ever (7.9%). These numbers suggest strong plate discipline, which is a skill that should transfer to the next level.
The lone downside with Chatham’s season is his unsustainably-high BABIP. Chatham has a .385 batting average on balls in play, and that figure is simply too high to maintain. The league average is typically around .300, so Chatham’s numbers would take a dip if normalized for batted ball luck.
Chatham is a fast player who makes good contact, so it makes sense that his BABIP would be above the league average. That said, Chatham is able to turn outs into singles thanks to subpar minor league defense. He won’t be able to do this at the major league level, so some of his singles will turn into outs.
Despite this, Chatham’s 2019 season should inspire confidence in the young outfielder. While he probably won’t make his major league debut until late 2019 or early 2020, there’s every reason to believe that he has a strong major league future. Whether he’s the second baseman of the future is yet to be decided, but all signs point to a bright major league career.