A Failed Prospect. An Underused Resource. What is Michael Chavis?

8-11-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

A first round pick by the Red Sox back in 2014, Michael Chavis has had a strange path to the Majors, one that he’s still traversing.

He’s held himself back at times like in 2018 when he was suspended 80 games for PED’s, but more than anything he’s held himself back by never really getting a handle on his strikeout rate.

The Pirates are a power hungry organization and Chavis has potential to provide it, cheap. So when Ben Cherington saw an opportunity to acquire the guy he once drafted for another player (Austin Davis) he gave up next to nothing to bring in, he jumped on it.

See, back in 2017, Michael was the Red Sox number 2 prospect after completing a split season between Single A and Double A in which he hit 31 homeruns. He was flying through the system and even with his suspension earned himself a call up to the rebuilding on the fly Boston club in 2019.

95 games, 382 plate appearances and 18 homeruns. Sounds good right? Well, it is, but with 127 strikeouts, I mean that’s about 33% of the time he’s striking out.

Let me lend a little more perspective here.

Mason Martin is arguably the Pirates most promising power bat in the system. Now, what you always hear about Mason is he needs to get his strikeout rate under control. Here’s his line this year in AA Altoona so far. 79 games, 334 plate appearances and 19 homeruns. Again sounds great right? Then we get to the strikeouts, 114 that’s about 34% of his appearances.

I should also say here, there’s a difference between doing that in AA and MLB, so please don’t misunderstand, I’m not making these equivalent. Just a comparison for comparison’s sake.

Michael had this much more under control for a time. Back in 2017 he was only striking out at a 21% clip which in today’s game is more than acceptable. Especially if it’s accompanied by 31 dingers, so he’s clearly worth a risk here, especially if the risk was a lefty who wasn’t doing much anyway. I mean don’t get too stoked, Gregory Polanco had a 21% K rate in his best season 2018 with 23 dingers, and he is the worst player in the history of the game right?

Now, ok, he’s worth the risk, but what can he do? Well, first base, DH, left field, second base, and I’d imagine if you played left field with the Green Monster you can handle right field with the Clemente Wall.

Look, there aren’t any guarantees in baseball. I can throw out all the stats you like but at the end of the day, you’re looking for skill sets and more importantly for them to evolve. So far Michael is a guy with one hell of a power tool, and not so much on the contact, at least so far.

The Pirates think he’s worth developing and since today is his birthday, happy birthday Michael, he’s all of 26 years old and doesn’t even hit arbitration 1 until next season, he probably is.

They’re out nothing if he fails and have everything to gain if he’s plopping balls in the Rotunda soon.

He could find his way to MLB this year, but if he does it will almost have to be at the expense of someone currently here. That could be Gregory Polanco, Anthony Alford, maybe even Rodolfo Castro. With only two call ups in September chances are the Bucs just promote a couple pitchers but if they go with a bat, Chavis would be my bet.

Taking risks on guys like this is a very affordable way to try to improve the short term without sacrificing the prospect capital they’ve worked so hard to build.

Bottom line, he’s an all or nothing player at the plate, and he’s an all or nothing player as an acquisition. Look for more like this before next season gets into business.

Oh, Michael, well a team like this, I’d play him in right field, bat him seventh and take the K’s in exchange for a chance at some instant offense, hey, it’s not like they’re really playing small ball either.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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