Michael Chavis watches a drive to center field against the Trenton Thunder in the first inning Tuesday at Hadlock Field. Chavis flied out to center on the play. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald)
PORTLAND — He is again looking like the top Boston Red Sox prospect.
Maybe you figured this was a washed-up season for Michael Chavis, who began the season with a 50-game suspension because of a positive test for steroid use (Chavis has steadfastly denied taking any type of drug).
Not eligible to play until July, he played only five games for the Sea Dogs — batting .150 — before he injured his wrist and missed 10 days.
“He was trying to get his timing back and he had to pause,” Sea Dogs manager Darren Fenster said.
Chavis is going fast-forward now. He began raking at the end of July and then really turned it on last week: 14 for 25 (.560), two doubles, two home runs, six RBI and an .880 slugging percentage.
That effort earned him Eastern League Player of the Week honors.
“Definitely better,” Chavis said. “A little simplification of the swing, making sure I got my foot down on time. “I looked back at some video and fine-tuned everything. The timing is definitely coming back, which is the biggest key.”
Chavis, 23, the Red Sox first-round draft pick in 2014, is the only Boston minor leaguer listed by mlb.com among the top 100 prospects (Chavis is 99th). He experienced a breakout 2017 season with a combined 31 home runs, .282 average and a .910 OPS in both advanced Class A Salem and Portland.
His numbers this year in 22 games: .309/.960 and five home runs.
“When he wasn’t getting any results, what impressed us was that his plate discipline was good, and his effort level was good. Usually when guys start pressing they get away from that stuff, and he didn’t,” Fenster said. “He was just missing pitches, which is a timing element.
“You get some at-bats under your legs and, very much like spring training, that first week-and-a-half, you finally start seeing guys for who they are, and that’s what we’re seeing with him.”
What Fenster and staff are seeing is Chavis’ ability to not only turn on a ball with his quick wrist, but also hit to all fields.
And, in the field, we are seeing Chavis cross the diamond to play first base. Chavis, a shortstop in high school, has played mostly third base in the pros. With Boston employing rookie Rafael Devers at third, the Red Sox had Chavis play some first base in the Arizona Fall League and, now in Portland.
“Pretty smooth transition,” Chavis said. “A lot easier than when I first signed, going from shortstop to third. I’m pretty comfortable over there.”
Fenster agreed: “He transitioned to the position way quicker and way better than what I think a lot of people thought he would. No problem whatsoever throwing him over there.”
Of course, playing third and first makes him more valuable to Boston.
And it also allows another Sea Dogs third baseman to play. Third baseman Bobby Dalbec is having a Chavis-like breakout year: .265/.973, 31 home runs combined in Salem and Portland.
“He’s decent,” quipped Chavis. “He a really good guy, hard worker, with a good approach.”
Sounds like the Red Sox are going to have their fill of power-hitting corner infielders. There is some speculation that Chavis could be asked to play another position (like second base), but he said he’s not heard anything.
“As long as I’m in the lineup,” Chavis said.
Chavis has not been in the lineup enough this year. But now that he is getting his timing back, and punishing the ball, the Eastern League season will end in three weeks.
Chavis will then search for more games.
“Definitely,” he said. “I’m not entirely sure exactly where, or what the game plan is, but I will be getting at-bats somewhere.”
He could return to the Arizona Fall League or play winter ball.
Michael Chavis is a prospect ready to break out again.