Best Player: 3B Michael Chavis
In spring training, Chavis made a commitment to provide structure to his search for the right offensive approach. He began to chronicle the details of every plate appearance in a journal—from how his swing felt to his pitch selection and the sequences he attacked.
The results in his age-21 season were striking. Chavis’ commitment to swinging at pitches he could drive facilitated a breakout season in which the 2014 first-rounder hit .282/.347/.563 with 31 home runs while trimming his strikeout rate from 31 percent last year to 22 percent this year at high Class A Salem and Double-A Portland.
Defensively, Chavis impressed evaluators with his strides at third base. But with future star Rafael Devers potentially anchoring the hot corner for the Red Sox moving forward, Chavis will be introduced to first base in the Arizona Fall League.
Best Pitcher: LHP Jalen Beeks
Prior to the season, most viewed Beeks as a likely future reliever. But his move to shelve a slider combined with regained feel for a changeup—which had been his best pitch in 2015 but had gone missing in 2016—opened the plate.
Thusly armed for his age-23 season, Beeks attacked opponents with a four-pitch mix (fastball, curve, change, cutter) that proved overpowering in Double-A (2.19 ERA, 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings) and effective enough in Triple-A Pawtucket to position him as a big league depth option who is a lock to be added to the 40-man roster this winter.
“He keeps growing on you,” Portland manager Carlos Febles said.
Keep An Eye On: LHP Darwinzon Hernandez
Hernandez, who signed for just $7,500 in 2013, showed one of the more electrifying pitch mixes in the system in 2017 while posting a 4.01 ERA with a strikeout rate of 10.1 per nine innings. The lefthander mixes a mid- to upper-90s fastball with both a curveball and a slider that, by the end of the year, showed wipeout potential. His changeup also shows solid potential in flashes.
The default assumption about the 20-year-old entering the year was that he had a future as a power reliever. But based on what he showed at low Class A Greenville, the Red Sox will keep him in the rotation to see if he can build on his control gains and stay on a starter’s track.
“He made a ton (of progress) with both breaking balls,” assistant GM Eddie Romero said. “When he harnesses his stuff in the strike zone, he’s really good.”