When injuries pushed the Red Sox to promote top prospect Michael Chavis earlier this season, the length of time for which he’d stick in the Majors was uncertain. Dustin Pedroia, Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez all represented veteran options at second base — a position which Chavis was and is still learning — and the promotion of any prospect never comes with a guarantee of permanence.
But Chavis has burst onto the scene in Boston, hitting at a .293/.423/.638 clip with six long balls through his first 71 plate appearances. His 26.8 percent strikeout rate and 14.9 percent swinging-strike rate are higher than the organization would prefer, but Chavis has also already drawn a dozen walks, demonstrating some selectivity at the plate.
Boston has already played him at second base, third base and first base, and the team is at least tinkering with the idea of using Chavis in the outfield, as MLB.com’s Ian Browne was among those to report. Chavis doesn’t have professional experience at any of the three outfield slots but he’s been working on tracking some fly-balls during batting practice. Manager Alex Cora was clear to state that Chavis isn’t yet working at learning the outfield. But, Cora added, “It’ll be good for him just to stand there and see the flight of the ball.”
It’s a notable for the Red Sox for a number of reasons. Keeping Chavis at the big league level would keep one of their hottest hitters in the lineup on a regular basis and could help to spell regulars at multiple spots. Furthermore, it’d create an interesting roster dilemma in the event that the Red Sox ever manage to get all of their infield options healthy. Chavis, to this point, has produced more offense than could be expected of either Holt or Nunez, both of whom would stand to lose playing time to him in an injury-free scenario. It’s not yet clear when Holt will return to the club, but Alex Speier of the Boston Globe tweets that following a recent painkilling injection in his shoulder, Holt is hopeful he’ll begin a new minor league rehab assignment soon. Nunez is currently healthy but has hit just .189/.200/.264 through a small sample of 56 PAs.
Pedroia, meanwhile, is already on a minor league rehab assignment. The veteran has long been one of the cornerstones of the franchise but has played in precisely nine games dating back to Opening Day 2018 due to injuries of his own. A return to form for Pedroia would give the Sox the cliched “good problem to have,” but at this point it’s hard to know what to expect from the 35-year-old.
From a service time vantage point, the decision to keep Chavis in the big leagues has its own ramifications. Chavis was promoted with enough time having lapsed that the Sox will control him for one more season than they would have had he broken camp with the club, but he lines up as a surefire Super Two player. Barring an early-career extension, that’d give Chavis a bite at his first seven-figure salary in 2022 rather than 2023, and his three subsequent arbitration salaries would be greater based on that early entry into the process.
Of course, even if Chavis sticks in the big leagues for the time being, he’s not immune to being optioned out later in the season. A prolonged slump could land him back in Pawtucket long enough to alter his arbitration or even his free-agent trajectory. But it’s plenty notable that he’s already impressed to the point where he’s forcing the issue and setting the Sox up for some tough decisions about playing time and potentially even roster spots.