A reminder that Michael Chavis remains one of Red Sox' biggest wild cards


There are always plenty of on-the-bubble roster candidates every spring training.

Some enter camp with the understanding that they are teetering on the edge of becoming some sort of end-of-the-roster option, while others play their way into or out of the conversation.

Michael Chavis is living that life. But his existence seems a bit different than most in his situation.

First of all, if there was any question about the uncertainty regarding Chavis' spot in the Opening Day roster, Alex Cora defined the former first-round pick's lot in life as we head into the Grapefruit League's initial games.

"Michael, he had a great start in ‘19," Cora said Sunday. "He did an outstanding job hitting the ball up the middle. Obviously the home runs, we know he can do that. But then the league… that series against the Astros, I think it was back to back weekends. I think he faced the best pitchers in the league and they exposed him.

"He needs to make adjustments. I didn’t see much of him last year. He played a little of left field. He can play first, third, second. The thing with him, we like the swing, we like the power, but he needs to make adjustments. He needs to make contact. He needs to hit lefties, that’s very important. He looks in better shape than two years ago. He lost some weight but he’s still strong.

"He’s been working at second base, but we’ll use him at those three positions in the infield and we’ll keep pushing him to play left field. So, there’s nothing guaranteed on this roster. Of course, there are certain guys who are here to get ready for the season but in his case, he needs to prove us that he’s made adjustments throughout the offseason and although spring training is spring training, I would love to see him making tough contact, cutting the chase rate and if he does that, he’ll put himself in a good position."

There are a few issues facing Chavis. The first is offensive consistency. In the last two seasons he has struck out in a third of his plate appearances, finishing with a .636 OPS in his 158 trips in 2020. And he swings and misses 38 percent of the time, putting him in the fourth percentile of all big leaguers.

Then there is the reality regarding his position. Chavis can play first base, second base, third base and left field, but none of the spots jump off the page when it comes to a permanent home.

But Chavis' upside is a lot different than many on-the-bubble-type guys.

With Cora suggesting he is leaning towards a three position player bench, the 25-year-old's chief competition appears to be soon-to-be-signed Marwin Gonzalez and Christian Arroyo.

Chavis has, however, shown enough that if he can legitimately field the aforementioned positions he might not only be worth keeping around, but also represent someone who could get legitimate playing time. If the likes of Franchy Cordero and/or Hunter Renfroe take turns for the worse, Kiké Hernandez could be summoned to play more outfield. Bobby Dalbec also has to show consistency at first base. In both cases, Chavis -- who has 23 major-league home runs in 137 games -- offers intriguing options.

The roadblock for Chavis, even with his improved conditioning and a good spring training, is his roster flexibility. He can be sent to the minors. Gonzalez -- who finished 2020 with just a .606 OPS -- will be living life not only with the ability to hit from both sides of the plate but carrying a $3 million deal for 2021.

As Cora noted, spring training is everything for Chavis. It will be defining how we view a once-top-prospect that has yet to be defined.