PEORIA, Ariz. — After a season he’d like to forget, Michael Chavis cranked up his offseason workout routine. The Red Sox third base prospect returned to low Class A Greenville and battled through a broken finger—which led to subpar numbers across the board.
“When I was healthy, I felt like I played really well,” Chavis said on Tuesday. “Playing through my broken finger and stuff like that, the numbers didn’t really translate to how I felt I’d performed when healthy. So one of the things I wanted to do coming into this year was start my season based off of that (feeling), pick up where I left off when I was healthy.”
Fully healed, Chavis shined in 2017. Between high Class A Salem and Double-A Portland, the 22-year-old hit .282/.387/.563 with 31 home runs and 94 RBIs. The home run total was just four behind Fresno’s A.J. Reed for the minor league lead. He ranked among the Top 20 prospects in both the Carolina and Eastern Leagues.
“I worked my butt off. I did two-a-day (workouts). I really focused on, this is our job,” Chavis said. “That’s how I’ve approached it: It’s my job, and I want to be as good as I can possibly be at my craft, which is baseball, so that’s just how I’ve approached things.”
The workouts were done at Rapid Performance, a gym in Chavis’ home of Georgia where a covey of big leaguers train. The Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon, D.J. LeMahieu and the Red Sox’s Josh Rutledge spend their offseasons there too.
Unlike other sports performance centers, Rapid Performance is based solely on helping baseball players get better.
“How we run, how we lift, everything is oriented for baseball,” Chavis said.
Another factor that led to Chavis’ improvement was the clearing out of a logjam of Red Sox prospects around and in front of him. In 2015, he was part of a star-studded infield in Greenville that also included second baseman Yoan Moncada, third baseman Rafael Devers, shortstop Javier Guerra, middle infielder Mauricio Dubon and first baseman Nick Longhi.
With Chavis included, that’s six players for four infield spots, meaning someone was going to have to ride the bench every day whether or not they needed the rest. Moncada, Dubon and Guerra have been traded, and Devers shot through the system on the way to Boston’s postseason roster, leaving Chavis time to develop without interruption.
“I think the big thing was that he was able to play every day. Being in Greenville the last couple of years he had to platoon with Devers and was injured,” one evaluator said. “He just got consistent. He really worked at improving his defense and getting a more advanced approach offensively.”
With the help of those workouts, Chavis also transformed his body from what it looked like in high school in Sprayberry, Ga., to the more sculpted version he sports today.
“I’ve gained weight, but it’s good weight. Early on, I gained negative weight and I made that adjustment and I lost some weight,” he said. “It was an up-and-down thing. When I was drafted I believe I was 190 and now I’m around 205-210, but I’m stronger than I’ve ever been and I’m just as quick. I haven’t lost a step and I still feel explosive.”
Chavis also decided to revert his swing to the one he utilized as an amateur. He’s a video junkie, and he pored over film of himself until he came to a decision.
“My swing that I had in high school was really consistent. It was repeatable,” he said. “When I first got into pro ball, there were some little adjustments that led to me changing my swing. This past offseason I just started from the ground up. I went back to the beginning and I said, ‘This is when I had success. This is what I was doing. That was what my natural swing was, let’s go back to that.”
After a loud batting practice, Chavis went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs in Peoria’s AFL opener against Glendale. At the tail end of a long season, he’s picked up right where he left off in the regular season.
Braves pitching dominated in Peoria’s win over Glendale. A quartet of Atlanta arms combined for 16 strikeouts in the win, led by starter Max Fried, who struck out seven in three frames, and righty Touki Toussaint, who fanned four more in his two innings.
Fried sat between 95-97 mph with his fastball and showed off two offspeed pitches—a changeup and a tight, deep curveball—that have the potential to be above-average. About the only thing he didn’t do was throw his breaking ball for called strikes, instead relying on hitters to chase.
“I felt good, I just tried to attack. Things got a little out of whack in the second inning when I tried to do too much,” Fried said, “but most of the time I felt pretty good.”
Toussaint, who sat between 92-94 with his fastball and also added a changeup and mid-70s curveball, said that seeing Fried dominate for the first three innings made him want to come out and one-up his teammate.
“It is exciting because you know you can’t take anything off,” he said. “You know you have to bring your A-game. You’re a competitor and that’s what you look for. Some organizations … you just go out there and you’re like ‘I’m the guy and I can do what I want,’ but with the Braves it’s like, if you have that attitude you’re out of there.”
The nightcap, too, was headlined by a hard-throwing lefthander. Scottsdale’s Justus Sheffield, who was acquired by the Yankees in the trade that sent reliever Andrew Miller to the Indians last summer, took the ball against Mesa on Opening Night and dominated.
He tuned up with a few starts in the instructional league beforehand, then threw five innings of one-hit shutout ball with six strikeouts and no walks. His fastball sat between 94-96 early before dropping a little bit toward the latter portion of his outing. He showed a slider and changeup throughout that looked to be potential plus pitches in the future. He got swings and misses on all three of his offerings.
“I felt good. I was definitely excited to get back out there for competitive baseball,” Sheffield said. “You know how instructs is, kind of laid back. I was eager to get out here and face other guys and other prospects, things like that.”
He threw 60 pitches in his outing, 42 of which were strikes.
- Tigers infield prospect Kody Eaves, acquired from the Angels for fellow infielder Jefry Marte in January 2016, went 4-for-4 with two doubles for Mesa.
- A pair of New York prospects—the Yankees’ Billy McKinney and the Mets’ Tomas Nido—each went deep in Scottsdale’s win.
- Yankees relief prospect Cody Carroll tossed two scoreless innings for Scottsdale and sat between 96-98 mph with his fastball. He finished the game by freezing Mesa’s Tyler Ramirez on a slider on the inner half of the plate.