We continue along with our massive third tier of prospects here, and it was an interesting vote this time around. Most of our prospects of late have included players who are a bit further away and are based more on projection, but one player remained right on the cusp of the majors, albeit with a lower ceiling. The more veteran player was the one who took this round voting, with C.J. Chatham taking the number 12 spot (number 11 on our list, sort of, since Jeter Downs came in after the voting had started) garnering 41 percent of the vote.
The Red Sox found themselves in an interesting position back in the 2016 draft, picking in the middle of the first round after a disappointing 2015 but having Jay Groome, a potential 1-1 pick early in the process, fall to them outside the top ten. They ended up grabbing the lefty, but then had to save a little money after that. This meant they were looking for college players, and that included their second round pick. With that selection they took Chatham, a shortstop from Florida Atlantic University. At the time, he was ranked 101st by Baseball America and 63rd by MLB Pipeline. He was seen as a big shortstop who some thought would be able to stick at the position, though his size made other wary. Offensively, it was a contact-oriented approach.
The hope was that, despite the relatively low ceiling for a selection just outside the top 50, he would be able to move somewhat quickly given his skillset. He spent that first summer in the organization between the GCL and Lowell, getting off to a bit of a late start, however, due to a broken thumb he suffered in the college season. Ultimately he got 146 plate appearances that year, hitting .242/.299/.417. It wasn’t the best performance, but heading into his age-22 season the Red Sox were comfortable enough to push him onto Greenville in 2017.
Unfortunately, he would not be able to play too much as injuries got in the way, which has been a theme for him over his career. The shortstop ended up suffering a hamstring injury that turned out to be a severe one, limiting him to only seven games all season in what was basically a lost year. That made 2018 a big season for him as he was looking to regain some of that prospect shine that comes with being a second round selection. He did miss some time in 2018 with a viral infection, but still managed to play in 114 games between Greenville and Salem. Over the 472 total plate appearances, he hit .314/.350/.389, showing off some of the bat-to-ball skills that had been promised out of college.
With something relatively close to a full season under his belt, he came into 2019 looking to really make his mark, hoping to be added to the 40-man roster after the year as a Rule 5 eligible player. He did just that over 110 games split between Portland and Pawtucket. Offensively it was the same sort of profile he had always shown, hitting .298/.333/.408 over 467 plate appearances. Also of note is that he started to develop more as a potential utility man, getting playing time at second base as well as shortstop, and even got some outfield time in the Arizona Fall League, though that was more out of roster necessity than anything.
As far as the scouting goes, he mostly is what he is at this point, and your view of it really depends on what you’re looking for. He’s not going to blow anyone away in any categories, but he is average or near it mostly across the board. Like I said, he is more of a contact hitter and his power is probably the worst tool in the shed. He should be able to smack some doubles around, but even with everyday playing time he’s probably going to barely make double digits in home runs most seasons. However, he has hit close to or above .300 throughout his minor-league career. That will come down in the majors some, but he should still hit a good number of singles. The key, as I wrote earlier this winter, could be developing some more patience to boost the on-base skills.
Defensively, he could stick at shortstop if he had more of an everyday offensive profile, but he can play both middle infield spots well and could probably get third base down if he gets a chance there as well. He’s not a great athlete on the bases, but he shouldn’t be a negative there either. All told, there’s some chance of a second-division starter if things break right, but a good piece of the bench is the most likely outcome. It’s not a sexy profile, but it’s one that certainly provides value for a team looking to compete.
Chatham did indeed get added to the 40-man roster this past winter, giving him a path to make the major-league roster at some point in 2020. There is probably a path for him to get there out of camp, even, though that would be a longshot at this point. He only played 20 games at Triple-A. The end of the Red Sox bench is weak, but I suspect they’ll ideally want to get him a couple months in Pawtucket before giving him a taste of the majors. Of course, depending on how the health of the guys in front of him go he could be up earlier. Either way, this is likely the last year we’ll see him on this list.
Here is said list so far:
1A. Jeter Downs
1B. Triston Casas
2. Bobby Dalbec
3. Bryan Mata
4. Noah Song
6. Jay Groome
7. Jarren Duran
8. Thad Ward
9. Tanner Houck
10. Matthew Lugo
11. C.J. Chatham
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...