C.J. Chatham Looks To Build On Healthy 2018
With his legs back under him, shortstop C.J. Chatham proved capable of taking a sizable step forward in 2018.
After Chatham missed virtually all of the 2017 season with severe hamstring woes, he showed an impressive two-way game in a season spent primarily at high Class A Salem. In 114 games he hit .314/.350/.389 with three home runs.
Chatham is aggressive at the plate (5.1 percent walk rate) but has the hand-eye coordination to make plenty of contact (18.2 percent strikeout rate) while competing for the Carolina League batting title into the final days of the season. He combined an above-average hit tool with little power—he collected just 25 extra-base hits.
Though his lack of raw strength caps his power projection, the 24-year-old Chatham insists he has more power in the tank if he can keep his swing more on the plane of the pitch as opposed to spinning off the ball in a fashion that generates topspin.
"Instead of staying through it and hitting it in the air, I was cutting it off," said Chatham, a 2016 second-round pick from Florida Atlantic. "The best contact, I was hitting for a single, maybe a double down the line. The power is there.”
Defensively, Chatham proved polished in the field—steady rather than flashy, but with good instincts at the most demanding infield position. A skinny 6-foot-4, he moves well at shortstop. Several evaluators see physical similarities with J.J. Hardy.
"Now,” mused Red Sox manager Alex Cora, "he just needs to have a great career like Hardy.”
Chatham, who received an invitation to big league camp, is slated to open the year at Double-A Portland. As perhaps the team’s best defensive shortstop in the upper levels, he could garner consideration for the big leagues should the team require a depth option.
But for now, after the long wait through 2017, Chatham is simply looking forward to building on the foundation he laid in 2018.
"I hadn’t played in so long,” said Chatham. "Going out there, showing what I could do, it was great.”
— Michael Chavis spent time during spring training taking ground balls at second base, a position that the Red Sox may add to his current responsibilities at third base and first base.
— Righthander Roniel Raudes had Tommy John surgery in January and will miss all of 2018.