The Boston Red Sox may have a problem at third base, but it is a welcoming type of problem. Top prospect Michael Chavis and Rafael Devers could offer an intriguing spring training in 2020.
Who’s on third? Of course, the immediate answer is quite simple for the Boston Red Sox and that is Rafael Devers. The left-hand hitting Devers has a world of promise and so far it has been tantalizing glimpses of extraordinary power and equally mystifying adventures in the field. Devers, despite his work ethic, has made just incremental improvement in the realm of defense. What does the future hold?
The argument I often see presented is Devers is a first baseman/DH in waiting. I will subscribe to that, although somewhat limited. Devers’ -13 Defensive Runs Saved, league-leading 24 errors, and a -5.2 UZR/150 does provide some significant statistical ammunition for a replacement strategy at third. But who?
The number one prospect in a depleted farm system is a muscular 23-year-old third baseman, Michael Chavis. Chavis missed a good part of 2018 after being pinched with a drug violation, but did slam six home runs and hit .303 with 33 games with Portland (AA). Chavis also added a pair of home runs with Pawtucket (AAA) where he will be the starting third baseman in 2019.
The system also has a towering first-round pick in 19-year-old lefty hitting Triston Casas. Casas has exactly four at-bats and is about as far away from MLB as I am from having lunch on a planetary body circling Betelgeuse. The Red Sox top ten also has right-handed power hitting Bobby Dalbec as an intriguing possibility. Dalbec hammered 32 home runs in split duty in 2018.
I will be upfront and state that the Devers of 2018 was somewhat of a disappointment. The 1.0 fWAR was nothing to rave about, but then there is that power – 21 home runs. Then there is that beautiful swing. Then there is that .240 average and .229 against lefties. Now what?
Devers is a lock for third in 2019 unless he suddenly morphs into a baseball Pele and kicks and tosses the little white orb all over the place. From what I have read the mentioned possible replacements defensively will not be compared to the defensive elegance of Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson. If desperation strikes then plan B would be Eduardo Nunez who is a slight upgrade defensively or even Blake Swihart who would be a far greater downgrade.
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In 2019, it will be Devers or bust, but 2020 could offer up a different outcome. If Chavis lights it up at Pawtucket the Red Sox could be faced with putting Chavis at third (or second) and shifting Devers. Naturally, much depends on Devers and if suddenly his potential mercurial talent emerges he will stay planted, but a repeat of 2018 could change the dynamics.
Assuming Chavis is the real deal, the Red Sox will be in a sweet spot fiscally and with talent. Two young and controllable players with an excellent offense and no so excellent defense holding down the corners. And with Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce potentially leaving it could be possible and not improbable.
So the futurist me is looking down that prospect road with the potential for a real spring training throwdown between Chavis and Devers. The beauty of it is both will play somewhere for the Red Sox – if they both get to that next level.