Welcome to BP Boston’s second annual Roster Recap series. Over the next few months, we’ll be analyzing 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. From MVP-candidate right fielders to reserve relievers, we want to give you a look at every Red Sox who might matter in 2017. View the complete list of Roster Recaps here. Enjoy!
Ben Cherington has received maybe more than his share of criticism from the internet, especially so when you consider that he turned the 2012 Red Sox into the 2013 Red Sox, but if there’s one aspect of his legacy that continues to haunt the franchise, it’s the top of his drafts. Cherington had seven first round draft picks in his four years running the draft. That’s a lot. Given the inherent uncertainty involved, perhaps his record isn’t so bad — he did draft Andrew Benintendi after all — but he also spent first round picks on Deven Marrero, Brian Johnson, Trey Ball, Pat Light, and, the subject of this article, Michael Chavis. To-date analysis: yeesh.
What went right in 2016
After struggling in 2015, Chavis started the season on fire, hitting .356/.415/.576 over 59 at-bats for Greenville in A-ball before tearing a ligament in his thumb. Rats! I almost made it one whole sentence before going negative. Let’s be positive: Before the injury Chavis showed off the power scouts had always hoped his strong lower half and quick wrists could create. It was the beginning of the break-out season the Red Sox wanted to see from the 20-year-old third baseman after a rough 2015.
You will notice the number of words under this heading are many fewer than under the next heading. This should give you a good if general handle on how Chavis’ 2016 season went.
What went wrong in 2016
Pretty much everything after that. The injury caused Chavis to miss development time and then, after returning from the injury, he hit a weak .214/.296/.341 from early June through late August. After that he was called up to High-A for seven games to end the season. By then the hot start was a distant memory left to those who can navigate the deeper caves of Baseball Reference.
We know hand injuries can sap a player’s power even after they are “healthy.” Chavis isn’t a special fielder, though he can handle third base, and he’s not shown himself to be extraordinarily patient at the plate either, all of which is to say he needs that power to show up in games. He struggles with pitch recognition, which isn’t entirely unusual for a player his age and at his level, but when you’re a first round pick more is expected. To this point, more hasn’t been delivered. Chavis wasn’t able to put his batting practice power into games other than those 59 ABs to start the year. While that may be his carrying skill, no carrying skill can go without some assistance, which is what makes Chavis‘ inability to improve his plate discipline, pitch recognition, or penchant for pulling the ball so concerning.
What to expect in 2017
He’ll be just 21 years old in 2017 so this isn’t and should not be his baseball epitaph, but to date we haven’t seen much from Chavis that indicates he’ll be a regular major leaguer, let alone an above average one. Chavis still has a long way to go make an impact in Boston (or elsewhere). It’s not impossible that the proverbial light goes on and he figures things out, but when nebulous cliches are all that we have to fall back on, well, that’s probably not all that encouraging.
The baseball draft is a notoriously unpredictable thing, and being a first-round pick, while delivering recognition, is no protection against that. We can see that in Boston’s three first round picks before Chavis, which were Marrero (quad-A player), Johnson (who knows), and Light (used to trade for a guy who A) was a borderline non-tender candidate, and B) has “bad” right there in his name). Chavis isn’t at the point where he can fairly be lumped in with those guys yet, but to date that’s the path he’s on. Sink or swim time in High-A this year will give us a good handle on how this story plays out.
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