Welcome to Over the Monster’s One Big Question series. For those unfamiliar, this is something of a season roster preview where over the next 40(ish) (week)days we’ll be taking a look at each player on the 40-man roster prior to the season. If changes are made to the roster between now and Opening Day, we’ll cover the newly added players. Rather than previewing what to expect in a general sense, the goal of this series is to find one overarching question for each player heading into the coming season. We’ll go one-by-one alphabetically straight down the roster, and today we talk about Michael Chavis.
The Question: Just where exactly is Michael Chavis going to be playing?
We are firmly in prospect season right now as spring training is right around the corner. Most publications have released their team and overall lists at this point, and as expected the Red Sox aren’t exactly flourishing on said lists. We’ve talked about the reasons for that already and why it’s not the end of the world. No need to get into that again. One interesting surprise from these lists, though, has been the non-consensus at the top of Boston-specific lists. Now, the Red Sox don’t have a prototypical number one guy that stands out whenever you see him. That being said, I figured Michael Chavis was going to be the slam dunk choice for pretty much everyone. I’d certainly have him number one on my own list. That said, Bobby Dalbec, Triston Casas and Darwinzon Hernandez have all found themselves at the top of various lists from different experts.
Still, even if Chavis isn’t the top prospect in the system, he is at the very least among them. Even more in his favor is that he was added to the 40-man roster this past winter as a Rule 5-eligible player, meaning his major-league debut should be right around the corner. The question for him right now is just where he is going to play.
This is a question that can be read in a few different ways, and we’ll talk about all of the variations. One thing is what level he’ll play at? We expect him to make his big-league debut this year, but is that a sustained debut or a quick cup of coffee? The next is the organization. He’s obviously with the Red Sox right now, but trades can always happen, particularly with Dave Dombrowski. Could they flip him for help elsewhere at some point this year? Finally and most obviously is what position he’ll man. This has been the biggest question hanging over him for the last couple of years, and for those who didn’t have him as the number one guy in the system it is the most likely reason why.
Before we get into these questions, we should probably at least touch on the offense. It’s not the focus of this post, but it is certainly the focal point of his game. I finally got to see Chavis with my own eyeballs a couple of times last year, and I came away much more impressed than I expected to be. The young righty still looked sharp even coming right off his 80-game PED suspension, and his approach is much more controlled than what was indicated in early scouting reports. He’s not going to be a superstar, nor is he ever going to be a batting average champion, but he makes loud contact and at least against Double-A pitching was more than able to control himself in the zone and take whatever the opposing pitcher wanted to give him.
So, yeah. I am a firm believer in the bat playing at the highest level, but the questions at hand still exist. Let’s start with the level at which he will play, which is probably the easiest to answer. It seems all but certain that Chavis will begin the year in Pawtucket, where he got a short eight-game cup of coffee at the end of last season. Triple-A will be a new test for him and he’ll need some time to adjust to older and smarter pitchers, many of whom will have had major-league experience. Still, like I said above I believe in the bat and think he would be ready for the highest level sometime around midseason. He could probably even come up earlier if needed. The issue is that Boston’s major-league roster is full, so he’d likely be looking for an injury to come up before September for the Red Sox. Chavis is good, but I don’t think he’s at the level to force his way on the roster over some veterans unless said veterans are really struggling.
Of course, there’s no guarantee Chavis will be with the Red Sox for the entirety of 2019 or beyond. Boston hasn’t really been involved in any real trade rumors this winter, but we know Dave Dombrowski will always be willing to deal from prospect depth if he finds a major-leaguer he likes. That thinking just won him a World Series, too. Chavis is a bit redundant with the Red Sox as a primary third baseman given Rafael Devers’ presence, so he’s a real trade candidate. The question becomes A) how much Boston values the bat and B) how likely they think it is they can squeeze him in at another position to get that bat in the lineup. I do believe the Red Sox are real believers in Chavis’ performance at the plate, but I do not believe they think it is so much of a game-changer they feel they have to keep around. They won’t give him away for nothing and will find room for him if the time comes, but I suspect he’ll be part of trade conversations starting in mid-June when non-contenders start to sell and holes on the roster become more clear.
Of course, the biggest question for the former first round pick is where he will play on the diamond. Like I said above, his primary position is third base, but there are a couple of issues there. First is the Devers issue. If he is with the Red Sox, Chavis will not move Devers both because the latter is a better player and a more clear part of the future and also because, well, Chavis is worse defensively. He has a big arm and I think he can fake it enough at the hot corner to be passable there, but he’s below-average to be sure.
There have been a lot of speculated new homes for him in the near future. First base seems to be the most popular, and the Red Sox will certainly try him there. That is his best chance to stick in the organization long-term since Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce are both free agents after the 2019 season. I haven’t seen him there so I can’t say for sure it won’t work, but his size and footwork both give me pause about the viability. Second base has also been mentioned a bunch, and while I also haven’t seen him there I am much more confident he won’t be able to stick there. I guess anything is worth a shot, but this seems highly unlikely. I would start giving him some time in left field, like they did with Sam Travis, and try to get Chavis is a somewhat versatile role where he can eventually spend time at third base, first base, left field and designated hitter. It’s not the sexiest profile, but I don’t think he’s good enough to provide value at any one spot. The next best thing would be to show versatility and cover multiple spots.
Chavis is going to be one of the most interesting players to keep an eye on in camp this year. Part of that is simply that he is a top prospect new to the 40-man roster, and those guys are always interesting to see. His at bats should be fun regardless of the other questions. That said, it will also be fascinating to see what positions he plays in games this spring. The Red Sox have said a lot of different things with regards to Chavis in the past, but this spring we should start to get a better idea of what their real plan is.