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2018 Red Sox top prospect voting: C.J. Chatham enters a make-or-break year

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Can he stay on the field?

Photo Courtesy of Kelly O’Connor; sittingstill.smugmug.com

For the second straight edition of our community prospect voting, we have a player in the low minors who had gotten significant support in a few previous votes in the series but had been unable to get over the hump. That is, until this time. Following Darwizon Hernandez on our OTM top prospect list is C.J. Chatham, who comes in at number 14.

Chatham has not been able to emerge as a major name in the Red Sox farm system in his brief professional career, but he was a second-round selection for the team. Boston took him in the 2016 draft out of Florida Atlantic University and eventually signed him to a $1.1 million singing bonus that came in a little more than $100,000 under slot. He wasn’t viewed as a highly exciting prospect, but there was real defensive potential at the shortstop position here to go with a solid bat that could let him move relatively quickly through the farm system. He’d get a chance to play a bit in that first professional season, splitting time between the GCL and the New York Penn Leage with the vast majority of that time coming with Lowell. Over 146 plate appearances between the two levels (121 came in Lowell) Chatham hit a disappointing .242/.299/.417.

Of course, it was just his first taste of professional baseball, so the relatively lackluster numbers weren’t something to be overly worried about even if he was old enough that he probably should have been able to get on base a bit more in short-season ball. Still, there was some intriguing power in those numbers and real talent to build off of in his first full season in 2017. Unfortunately, he never even got out of the gate and it turned into a lost year of development for the then-22-year-old. The shortstop went down with a hamstring injury in spring and it affected him all year. He did try to come back, but the attempts never really stuck. In all, he was only able to play seven games last year, and six of those came in rehab appearances in the GCL. His overall numbers were pretty good (.855) but, I mean, it doesn’t really matter in that sample. There’s really nothing that we can take away from his 2017.

This is a big year for Chatham, who is about to enter his age-23 season. The reason we are still excited about him is that the scouting reports for him still show encouraging potential. It starts with his defense, as he’s projected to stick at shortstop despite his size. Listed at 6’4”, he has the looks of someone who would usually be sent to the hot corner, but Chatham has a big arm, good footwork and solid range that should let him be a weapon at the most important non-catcher position on the diamond. Offensively, things aren’t quite as exciting but if everything works out he could be a guy with an average hit tool that puts the ball in play plenty and decent power that will give him some home runs here and there and a solid number of doubles and triples. He’s not really a force on the bases, but he shouldn’t be a negative there either.

Of course, scouting reports can only go so far and eventually we have to see it in action. Michael Chavis’ breakout last year should serve as a reminder that patience is key with prospects, but at the same time it’s fair to consider 2018 something of a make-or-break year for a 23-year-old who has one game in full season ball. I’d expect Chatham to start the year back in Greenville, but if he gets off to a hot start it’s not hard to see him moving quickly through the system and potentially even getting to Double-A if everything goes perfectly. Of course, that’s counting the chickens before they hatch. First, Chatham just needs to get that hamstring right, stay on the field and show the player he can be. If he can do that, the rest of the pieces will fall into place.

Here’s our list so far:

  1. Jason Groome
  2. Michael Chavis
  3. Tanner Houck
  4. Bryan Mata
  5. Jalen Beeks
  6. Alex Scherff
  7. Sam Travis
  8. Mike Shawaryn
  9. Brian Johnson
  10. Josh Ockimey
  11. Cole Brannen
  12. Bobby Dalbec
  13. Darwinzon Hernandez
  14. C.J. Chatham

Now, we move on to the fifteenth spot on our list. As always, head down into the comments and “rec” the comment corresponding the player for whom you’d like to vote. Make sure you’re a member of the blog before you do so of course. Additionally, if there is a player you’d like to vote for who is not listed, leave a comment of your own saying “Vote for Player X here”. That comment will count as his first vote. For more information on this system, scroll to the bottom of this post. Until next time...