Welcome to BP Boston’s Roster Recap series! Over the next four months, we’ll be breaking down every player on Boston’s 40-man roster and many of their top prospects in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the Red Sox roster’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what we can expect moving forward. There’s no better time than the offseason to review the best (there was some best!) and worst (there was a lot of worst!) of the past year in red and navy. You can see previous editions of Roster Recap here.
In most sports, there are certain expectations that come with being a first-round draft pick. In baseball, there is about as much certainty in the first round as there is in Clay Buchholz’s durability — unless Bryce Harper is in the draft. Michael Chavis epitomizes that point as much as any other player. Chavis was drafted No. 26 overall by the Red Sox in the 2014 amateur draft. BP’s Tucker Blair labeled him a professional with plus raw power and raw tools, but lacking in athleticism and inconsistent with both his bat and glove. Essentially, he’s a great unknown.
One thing we do know is Chavis has a long way to go. The 20-year-old third baseman had a disappointing first full season in Low-A Greenville in 2015, largely due to a lack of offensive production. Chavis used a free-swinging approach that brought him some success power-wise, but led to greater failures in the form of a high strikeout rate. He showed he has much to learn as a hitter and fielder before he’ll be major-league ready, or even ready for the High-A level. However, he was also just a teenager playing professional baseball for the first time. This could just be the beginning of a long journey.
What Went Right in 2015
Chavis was lauded for his power coming out of the draft. He has strong forearms and muscular legs, and, as Blair’s scouting report states, possesses a leveraged swing with above-average bat speed and easily generates backspin. Chavis didn’t disappoint in that category, tying for fifth in the South Atlantic League with 16 home runs, ripping 29 doubles and finishing with a .182 ISO. Chavis improved as the season went on, particularly in power as he hit six home runs in August and September (the season ended Sept. 7). That gradual progression, highlighted by a nine-game stretch in which he collected 12 hits and rode a six-game hitting streak, provides reason for hope that he can carry that into 2016 and make his case for a promotion.
Another positive in Chavis’ 2015 season was his eight stolen bases. It’s not a spectacular number, but it’s solid given the average speed scouts have noted. It shows a strong instinctual element in his game (as well as showing just how bad many Low-A catchers are).
What Went Wrong in 2015
Chavis’ big swing paid dividends in terms of home runs, but left him whiffing far too often. He had a whopping 30.6 percent strikeout rate, going down swinging three or more times in 15 games. In fact, most of his offensive numbers were low. He posted a .244 TAv, .223/.277/.405 slash line and rarely pieced together multi-hit efforts. Blair’s 2014 analysis tells us those numbers aren’t surprising, as he has trouble with his timing and his swing can be inconsistent. Those flaws were most prevalent against hard-throwing pitchers. As Sox Prospects writes, Chavis’ swing tends to get long, which exposes the inner half of the plate. By contrast, Chavis walked at a 6.2 percent rate as his patience and strike zone knowledge still needs to develop.
Chavis’ glove could use some work as well. He committed 19 errors in 68 games at third base, and posted an ok 3.5 FRAA. Blair writes that Chavis is an aggressive defender with inconsistent footwork. His plus arm strength is nice, but it may not be enough to make up for the sloppy technique. Chavis started off as a shortstop in rookie ball before being moved to third base. His struggles at third could mean a short future there as well, and we may see him DH more often. Don’t rule out a move to the outfield, either.
Outlook for 2016/MLB ETA
Sox Prospects projects Chavis to be Greenville’s starting third baseman once again this season. Where he goes from there hinges on how he performs at the plate. What’s clear is he needs to hit better, even at the expense of some of those power numbers. Perhaps that means shortening his swing, or just getting his timing down. He could have a real chance to move up this season with Rafael Devers in High-A Salem and primed for another promotion if he picks up where he left off last year. More struggles at third could lead to Chavis trying new positions, though as Chris Crawford noted in BP’s 2016 Red Sox Top-10 list, Chavis has the tools to stick at the hot corner.
BP puts Chavis’ ETA at 2019. It looks unlikely he’ll advance sooner than that. This year is an important one in terms of establishing how quickly he can climb through the organization. The good news for Chavis is he’s still ripe at 20 years old. His frame is bound to fill out more, and he’ll have ample opportunity to improve his approach at the plate, and sharpen his glove. For now, it’s far too early to worry about Chavis. It’s still just the beginning.
Photo by Kelly O’Connor/www.sittingstill.smugmug.com