Michael Chavis: Power to Prove
You see that player in the picture? He is the present of the Boston Red Sox. He is what every Red Sox prospect dreams of becoming, with fans adoring his every move.
When looking at minor league prospects, you look for a lot of factors to determine whether a kid is going to make a quick transition up the leagues or float around for the next five to ten years. You look at their athletic ability, arm strength, fielding skills, slugging power, and a host of other qualities. You expect to see some numbers inflated for a talented young man, still in his late teens, destroying equally young pitchers before playing against men in some of the higher affiliates.
You do not expect to see designated hitter listed before shortstop and third base as the positions of significance by Baseball-Reference.com, a most-respected baseball information source.
That is exactly what you will find when you research Michael Chavis. The 19-year-old from Marietta, Georgia has made a name for himself, playing for the Red Sox in the Gulf Coast League. That’s right: Rookie ball. Chavis played a third of his first professional season as a designated hitter, while splitting the rest of the time in his two other positions. Hardly a sample size to make any definitive remarks either way about his progress, when much of his time was spent off of the field. Chavis was taken 26th overall, in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft, and immediately made an impact with scouts and fans by winning the home run derby at the 2014 Perfect Game All-American Classic.
So the kid can hit balls thrown right at him. What’s the big deal?
Well, in 39 games, Chavis hit .269, with a .347 on-base percentage, and a .425 in slugging. He has proven speed with the bat and his legs, stealing five bases, reaching for a double 12 times and also had three triples. Pretty good, but not overwhelming offence. Chavis went yard once and only hit .250 with runners in scoring position. Being 5’10” and looking maxed out in his body growth, there is likely not much more power coming from him. Again, decent numbers for a well-balanced shortstop or a defensive third baseman (there is such a thing?). Yet, Chavis was listed as a designated hitter for much of the season, a position meant to cash in runs on a consistent basis.
What is good to see from Chavis’ plate appearances is his ability to hit regardless of the amount of outs. He hit around .300, whether it was no outs or two outs, showing his commitment to lead off successfully or putting the ball in play, to keep innings alive. Chavis ran into trouble when there was only one out, using his compact swing to hit .208 in 48 at-bats. This game situation drastically lowered Chavis’ numbers, along with his slow start of the season. It paints the picture of a young man who can drive the ball to get the team fired up, but he can also get lost at the plate if the inning is not on the line. He struck out 38 times to complement his 15 walks; however, thankfully, he grounds out more than he flys out, which is not typical of a hitter only trying to crank long balls. What is typical is the “toe-tap timing device” that drives good hitting coaches and batting purists insane (soxprospects.com). You load, load, load, and misfire if the pitch does not come at the same rate as your foot. Just hit the ball!
Lots of pros load for a pitch, too. Jose Bautista does it. Well, when Chavis hits home runs in The Show, we’ll talk.
As far as fielding, Chavis makes scouts like what they see at shortstop and at third base. His “arm, quick first-step and fluid actions in the field” lead Chavis impressing the Red Sox at his defensive positions (soxprospects.com). He did have seven errors, five of them at shortstop, making his more permanent spot in the field to most likely be at third or a replacement option maybe at second base. Chavis did fairly well in the field, but his offence only got hot in the second half of his short season. Could he have been getting lucky or was it just a case of a slow start, needing to warm up to professional baseball for the hits to start coming?
NESN’s Ricky Doyle thought so in his report in September, when Chavis came to Fenway to experience what being a professional is like in Boston. Doyle states that Chavis “plays with a level of passion that’s very Pedroia-esque. Chavis was mindful not to step on any toes upon entering the Red Sox’s clubhouse Tuesday, but his silence soon was replaced by his eagerness to learn from guys whom he might someday call teammates.” That intangible element of competitiveness rears its head again. When Dustin Pedroia gets fired up, he is a leader; when Carlos Zambrano gets fired up, he is a lunatic. This comment is not to say that the two players have anything in common, but competitive fire tends to get overused when we look at young talent. At least, Chavis understands that he will need to learn from the experienced veterans if he is to show that he can handle the bright lights of the major leagues.
Chavis is Rule 5 Draft eligible in December of 2018, so there is a fair amount of time for the youngster to prove his power. The righty hitter does well against lefty pitching (.333) and has surprising pop for his size. The question should be why everyone is emphasizing his bat. All of the experts are crowning the man the successor to the thrown, simply based on pop in his bat and him being a first-rounder. Chavis could very easily become a top player for Boston, but we should not lose our heads about it. Give him some time to make adjustments to his game to become the well-rounded player he was expected to become.
There are reasons why Chavis is the future of the Boston Red Sox, and one reason is because he is not the present, yet.