Who saw this coming? Michael Chavis did

Rob Bradford
July 16, 2019 - 7:32 am

Monday Eduardo Nunez was sent on his way. A few hours later Michael Chavis, the player who had taken Nunez's skill-set to another level, was launching a first-inning grand slam over the left-field wall. This was the latest punctuation to a presence few were anticipating when this season rolled around.

For perspective, one year ago Chavis was hitting .150 for Double-A Portland. Who knew?

One person did have an idea it was around the corner. That would be Chavis.

"I’m not trying to sound arrogant, but even when I was in Double-A I felt like I was ready for the big leagues," Chavis said after the Red Sox' 10-8 win over the Blue Jays. "Some people might not think so, and I could be completely wrong. But in my opinion I felt like I was completely ready. (For a complete recap, click here.)

"I know I’ve gotten better. I know I’ve gotten more mature as a hitter. I’ve gotten better defensively. I’ve gotten a lot smarter. But in regards to the actual talent, I think the talent kind of hits the spot where you kind of fine-tune it. If I took the approach that I was when I was hitting .150 and took it to the big leagues I wouldn’t have had the success I’m having now, so I’ve made strides and become more mature. But in regards to the actual talent, it’s pretty similar."

Going back to even a few months ago, anyone who locked in on Chavis over Nunez in spring training should immediately run and start scooping up lottery tickets. The veteran was seemingly in a much better place with his knee and represented a solid back-up plan to Rafael Devers at third base while carrying a valued right-handed bat off the bench. Chavis? He wasn't even able to make it to the last round of cuts from major league camp (which the likes of fellow corner infield prospect Bobby Dalbec did).

But here Chavis is, entrenched as a key element in the Red Sox' blueprint to contending.

Sure, Dave Dombrowski's plan was to ride the foundation that won him a World Series. But there had to be some alteration along the way. It was just that few could have imagined that 365 days after living life as a struggling Double-A third baseman Chavis would be the one who represented almost nobody saw coming.

"Yeah, sorry. I’m confident in what I’m capable of doing, not in an arrogant way," he said when asked if he anticipated such success. "If I wasn’t confident, I wouldn’t be here. I think confidence in baseball is up there with the most important things. Coming into the season, I think it’s better to set standards or expectations a little bit too high rather than set them too low because then you’re sitting there, like, complacent, I guess you could say. My standards and expectations are pretty high. I wouldn’t say I’m surprised, sorry."

Landing where the Red Sox have with Chavis has still been somewhat of a process.

Other than the home runs (16) and RBI (most of any American League rookie with 52) his numbers are good but not great. The righty hitter's batting average sits at .259 -- six points above the A.L. average -- with an OPS of .795. But it's the all-around impact Chavis has represented that was something Nunez simply couldn't keep pace with.

And it is an evolution that isn't staying stagnant, as was evident Monday night. That was put on full display during the at-bat that led to his game-changing grand slam.

After getting to two strikes, Toronto starter Trent Thornton did what most everybody is against Chavis -- he elevated his fastball.

The first one the Sox' first baseman didn't offer at, pushing the count to 3-2. Then came another, which Chavis managed to foul off. That set the stage for No. 3.

"I know that’s something that people have been attacking me with, and in that situation, it’s probably the safest pitch to throw," he said. "If it means fouling it off or trying to get to another one or just taking it for a ball, it’s definitely something that I’ve been working on. Having them done that to earn the next pitch, that’s something I’ve kind of been writing in my book as well, it’s like, earn a pitch to hit, and I think that’s what I did, so it’s very satisfying, for sure."

For Chavis. For the Red Sox.