When it comes to intrigue, Michael Chavis has certainly done his part to stir it up since he was picked by the Red Sox in the first round of the 2014 draft. Between the 80-game PED suspension, a slew of injuries that have further limited plate appearances throughout his career and his near-unanimous ascent to the top of Boston’s prospect rankings, Chavis has drawn the attention of Red Sox Nation. And the 23-year-old hasn’t even had a big-league at-bat yet. The fact that he could play at least three positions in the majors at some point isn’t even the fifth most interesting thing about him.
Heading into next season, it seems like Chavis may finally get the chance to properly introduce himself in Boston. All will be forgiven if he’s able to produce anywhere near as much as he did in 2017 when he hit 31 home runs, 35 doubles and drove in 94 runs over 126 minor-league games. Sure, it was against High-A and Double-A pitching, but 31 home runs is impressive at any level.
Chavis’ bat is very clearly the highlight of his game as a whole, but as is the case with most young power hitters, his early strikeout numbers were a bit concerning. He posted a strikeout rate of 25.6 percent in 2014 and 30.5 percent in 2015 — his first two professional seasons. For perspective, the MLB average for both years was 20.4 percent. Chavis got his strikeout rate down to a career low 21.5 percent in 2017 and is definitely starting to exhibit more patience at the plate. He went from seeing an average of 3.2 pitches per plate appearance in 2015 to 3.5 in 2017 and 4.1 last season.
His 2018 campaign was slightly overshadowed by the 80-game PED suspension that was handed down just prior to Opening Day. Chavis struggled slightly to get his timing back after he returned from suspension, but got hot over the last month of the season, hitting .346/.393/.567 with five home runs and 16 RBI over the last 27 games between Portland and Pawtucket. Had it not been for the suspension, it’s definitely possible, maybe even probable, that he would have made his debut in Boston at some point last season.
On top of missing out on a crucial half-season of development due to suspension, Chavis has also had a hard time staying healthy. He was sidelined with a thumb injury during the 2016 season, limiting him to just 81 games; an elbow injury in 2017; and an oblique injury in 2018 that held him out of Spring Training prior to his suspension. He was also added to the Arizona Fall League roster in late August but was removed without an at-bat in October due to a sore wrist. All of the missed time has surely had an impact on his development so far and I would be interested to see what he can do if he stays healthy for an entire season.
Regardless of the question marks, it feels like Dave Dombrowski may view Chavis as a utility man at the next level, at least in the short term, mentioning him as an option at second base and left field. Yet Chavis hasn’t played a full game anywhere but third base or first base since 2015 and was originally drafted as a shortstop. The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier says there are “mixed opinions” on if Chavis could handle second base at the major-league level — which could be the easiest place for him to breakthrough right now. If he’s a legitimate option to replace Dustin Pedroia (or at least help fill the gap until he’s fully healthy), you can bet Chavis will begin getting in-game exposure at the position as early as Spring Training. The versatility alone could end up expediting the promotion process at some point too.
He still has work to do, no doubt about that. But if he can contribute anything offensively at second base, I would like to see him get a shot there. Second base felt like kind of a black hole at times last year and a lot of rallies seemed to die near the bottom of the order. Pedroia is also still one big question mark and there’s no telling when we will see him again, sadly. Chavis just seems like an exciting option who could also be a useful weapon coming off the bench. As Brock Holt proved yet again last season, it’s good to have guys like that on the roster.
I would love to see Chavis spend a little more time around J.D. Martinez, too. Like Martinez, Chavis records all at-bats in a journal, per the Portland Press Herald, even the ones he takes in batting practice. Martinez loves offering his perspective to his teammates and it’s hard to think of a player who could benefit from that more than Chavis, especially in this stage of his career.
I get the doubt and general feeling of distrust when a guy gets popped for PEDs, but I still want Chavis to find success at the next level and I think he is more than capable of doing so. If he’s going to do that in Boston, it feels like this is his year to do it.