Of all the players on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster, Michael Chavis might have the most to gain — or lose — during the course of spring training.
Chavis, who has played 137 major-league games since being called up in April 2019, is not guaranteed a roster spot like he was a year ago. With the additions of versatile options Kiké Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez, Chavis appears to be on the outside looking in when it comes to Boston’s Opening Day roster.
After struggling in 2020, it’s clear Chavis will need to fight for a bench spot this spring.
“He needs to make adjustments,” manager Alex Cora said Sunday. “I didn’t see much of him last year, but he played a little bit of left field, I know that. He can play first, he can play third, he can play second. The thing with him, we like the swing and we like the power but he needs to make adjustments. He needs to make contact. He needs to hit lefties. It’s very important. He looks in better shape than two years ago. He lost some weight but he’s still strong. He has been working at second base, but we’ll use him at those three positions in the infield and we’ll keep pushing him to play left field.
“There’s nothing guaranteed on this roster,” he continued. “There’s certain guys who are here to get ready for the season, but in his case, he needs to prove to us he has made adjustments throughout the off-season.”
Chavis, a former first-round pick and top prospect, got off to a red-hot start after making his debut, posting a .967 OPS and hitting 10 homers in his first 28 games. He then cooled off significantly over the summer before suffering a season-ending shoulder surgery in August, with Cora believing that the league’s pitchers quickly learned Chavis’ tendencies and “exposed him” by throwing high fastballs that he couldn’t hit.
In 2020, there were no minor-league at-bats to be had and the Sox were short on infield depth, so Chavis spent the entire year in the big-leagues despite struggling throughout the 60-game season. He hit just .212 with a .636 OPS in 42 games while seeing time at first base (24 games), second base (eight games) and left field (12 games). A natural shortstop, Chavis split time between first and second in 2019; the Red Sox began experimenting with him in left field late last season.
Chavis has struck out in 32.8% of his plate appearances since debuting and, despite being a powerful righty, has only hit .222 with a .699 OPS against left-handers so far in his big-league career. Considering Hernandez is likely the starting second baseman and the switch-hitting Gonzalez will see significant time in the outfield platooning with Franchy Cordero and Hunter Renfroe, Chavis doesn’t have a clear fit on the 26-man group.
Speaking on NESN last week, Cora said he planned to have a three-man bench to start the season, so there appears to be one spot up for grabs alongside Gonzalez and backup catcher Kevin Plawecki. Infielder Christian Arroyo, who impressed down the stretch last year and is out of minor-league options, appears to have the upper hand over Chavis, who can be sent down to Triple-A at any time.
Chavis does have more versatility than Arroyo, however, so a strong showing in camp could vault him toward a roster spot. Cora will be watching closely how Chavis looks when Grapefruit League games begin next weekend.
“I would love to see him making contact, cutting the chase rate,” Cora said. “If he does that, he’ll put himself in a good position.”