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2019 Red Sox top prospect voting: Michael Chavis builds on his 2017 breakout

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The number one prospect is named.

Michael Chavis
Kelly O’Connor; sittingstill.smugmug.com

We are through the first vote in our 2019 OTM top prospect list voting, and I have to say I was surprised by the massive margin of victory by our winner. Granted, I do agree with the choice and would have voted the same way, but there isn’t as much of a consensus among the experts about this choice as I was expecting. Generally, when that’s the case these votes are much more split. Despite all that, taking the number one spot on our community list is Michael Chavis, who received 38 of 44 (86 percent) votes.

Chavis has been in the organization for a long time now, having been selected with the team’s first round pick in 2014. He was picked with the 26th overall pick in that draft, the year after they won a championship, as a shortstop. There was, however, plenty of acknowledgement that he would eventually move off that position. Unfortunately, things did not look good for him immediately after being drafted. Chavis was fine but not great in the GCL the summer he was drafted and then was sent to Greenville as a 19-year-old in 2015. That may have been too aggressive, and he finished the year with a .682 OPS. He’d end up repeating the level in 2016 and performing a bit better with a .711 OPS in an injury-shortened year. Still, it wasn’t what was hoped for from first round picks, and hope seemed lost.

Then, in 2017, anyone who held their patience with Chavis was rewarded with a huge breakout in Salem. Remember, Boston’s High-A affiliate is not the easiest place to hit, but Chavis destroyed that league as a 21-year-old. He played in 51 games in the first half of that season, hitting .318/.388/.641 with 17 homers before getting a midseason promotion to Portland. At Double-A, his batting average and on-base skills fell a bit, but they stayed respectable and his big-time power stuck around to complete what was legitimate breakout season.

That brought us to 2018, with some newfound expectations as him being one of the top two prospects in the system by most lists. There was hope he’d keep things going and put himself into the mix for an Opening Day spot in 2019, but then bad news struck shortly before the start of the year. Chavis was suspended for 80 games after failing a PED test, throwing his stock back down a bit and putting a major delay on the start of his season. For whatever it may be worth, Chavis accepted his suspension but adamantly denied taking anything illegal. Eventually he did play in 46 games between Lowell (in a rehab-type stint), Portland and Pawtucket, and the good news is that he looked as strong at the plate as ever. Over those 194 plate appearances he hit .298/.381/.538. The missed time and development was certainly not a positive, but we at least got some acknowledgement that 2017 was not a one-year fluke. The dude can hit.

That bat is what rules the scouting report for Chavis, and it’s what makes him an exciting prospect. The 23-year-old (he’ll turn 24 in August) has a nice compact swing that lets him get to the ball quickly. That swing does get away from him at times and has led to big strikeout rates in the past, but he stopped selling out for the long ball on every swing in that breakout 2017 season and he’s obviously seen monumental improvement since then. He’ll still fall into some traps against early-count breaking balls, but at his best he can be a solid hitter with the big-time power. The power carries the day, and with his quick hands and strong lower half there’s little reason to expect it to change.

The big questions with Chavis, and why some wouldn’t have him as the top guy in the system, are defense and injury. Defensively, Chavis has played third base throughout most of his professional career. He’s not an outright disaster there, but he’s definitely not better than average and is probably worse. Plus, Rafael Devers has that spot right now. There’s been speculation that he can play second base, but I don’t see it. The most likely place for him to get time is first base, though he’s smaller than you typically see there. I’d also expect him to get some play in outfield corners to at least see if he can do it. If his bat reaches it’s ceiling someone will find room for him, but it’s obviously a concern. Also a concern is the fact that Chavis has missed significant time with various injuries throughout his professional career. In 2018, the suspension got the attention but he also dealt with a hand injury that kept him out of the Arizona Fall League. It seems as though there’s something every year, and that can really knock a prospect’s value.

Looking ahead to the 2019 season, Chavis could very well make his major-league debut and have some sort of impact on the Red Sox — or another team — at the highest level. The infielder was placed on the 40-man roster back in November to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, so his first option year will be used whether or not he’s up. He’ll certainly be in big-league camp, but unless there are multiple injuries he won’t break camp with the team. Look for him to get some experience at a few different positions in Pawtucket before eventually getting a call to the majors.

So, here’s our list so far in the voting:

  1. Michael Chavis

Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number two. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. Until next time...