Sox Slugger Michael Chavis Having Fun With The Game

Michael Chavis leads the Carolina League with 14 home runs this season. (Chris Robertson/MiLB.com)

Former Boston Red Sox first round draft pick Michael Chavis, currently the third baseman for the Advanced-A Salem Red Sox, is tearing up the Carolina League.

After being named the Carolina League Player of the Week in both April and May, Chavis followed that up recently by being named the Player of the Month for May. He’s among the league leaders in home runs, batting average, on base percentage, etc.

Chavis had a cup of coffee in Salem last year, hitting below .200 in a handful of at-bats after being promoted from low-A Greenville. “I’m a little more comfortable [now], already knowing the area, the coaches and staff.” It didn’t help him that in 2016 he came up to Salem with a broken finger: “I didn’t tell anybody about it and ended up being put on the disabled list.”

No problem this season: at press time Chavis led the league in batting average and home runs. In fact by early June he had already set the franchise season record for home runs hit at spacious Salem Memorial Ballpark – 11 of his 14 round trippers had been hit at home.

Playing with many of the same teammates he had at Greenville last season also meant a certain comfort level for Chavis, one of the Red Sox players who will represent his team when the Carolina League All-Star game comes to the Salem ballpark on June 20.

“It’s one of the reasons why we play so well together,’’ says Chavis about that comfort factor for his first place club.  “We can swing it too as a team – it relaxes you as a hitter knowing that if you make an out or don’t get the job done the guy behind you is gonna do it. It’s a great group of guys. We have a really special team. We can run, we can hit and we can pitch.”

Chavis had 16 homers on the season two years ago but only 8 in 2016, labeling it a “weird year” in which he had to get used to playing in real stadiums and in front of fans.  His growth “as a hitter and as a person” has led to this standout season. The resurgent power numbers? “They show up when I’m having fun. Everything kind of takes care of itself and my natural ability kind of takes over. Whenever you’re out there trying to press something or force the issue it’s not going to turn out like you want it to. When you relax and have fun everything pretty much takes care of itself.”

As for Salem Memorial Ballpark, with its high walls and formidable length: “the wind blows in most days [too] but at the end of the day for most power hitters whether it’s me or [teammate] Josh] Ockimey  – we have a lot of power hitters on this team – when you get into it and get all of [a pitch] it doesn’t really matter what park you’re in its gonna go. That’s a relaxing thing to think about. As long as I get it [squarely] it’s going to go. Big league hitters don’t miss those pitches.”

Otherwise Chavis says settling for a double is just fine with him.  He took notes in spring training whenever he had a chance to mingle with the big club – Boston – and observe how their players went about their workday.

Michael Chavis may not be around Salem all season; there’s a good chance he will be promoted to at least Double-A Portland and perhaps beyond before the end of the year. Last season Salem Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi left the Roanoke Valley in June – by the end of the year he was playing outfield for Boston at Fenway Park.

“My first year in Greenville I got too caught up thinking about [promotion to a higher level]. It made me press the issue … instead of just playing the game,” says Chavis. “[Boston] has a game plan, so I’m not really thinking about it too much. I’m honestly just out here trying to win ball games. If I do get called up that’s great. I’m not trying to make a career in Salem but I’m not trying to look down the road that much. Whatever happens will happen.”

Gene Marrano