Far be it from a fan of Boston sports to overreact to a handful of games, but Red Sox infielder Michael Chavis is already making a case for Rookie of the Year.
This is pretty wild, because Chavis isn't even a year removed from serving an 80-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, and also because he opened the season at Triple A Pawtucket. The Red Sox only summoned him on April 20 after a rash of injuries felled infielders Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez, and Brock Holt.
Hitting only .250 with the PawSox but exhibiting tremendous power with four homers in 12 games, Chavis has made the most of what could've been a cameo.
He owns six home runs and a .309 average in 16 games, and the shots he's hitting are absolute bombs. His average home run has traveled 429 feet. As a means of comparison, when Mookie Betts finished second in the 2016 MVP voting while slamming 31 homers, the longest ball he hit covered only 428 feet.
Chavis is the poster boy for launch angle, with a scything swing that Alex Rodriguez might refer to as a Ferris wheel. He has actually put more balls in play to center and right field than on the dead pull, but half the balls he hits in the air to left leave the park.
He is particularly adept at jumping hanging offspeed pitches, with four of his homers coming on sliders and the other two on fastballs. His moonshot into the monster seats against Detroit's Jordan Zimmermann is his only sub-400-foot homer, traveling 374 feet. The other five just appear progressively more absurd: 419 feet, 438, 441 (twice), and 459 feet on a hanging slider from Chicago's Reynaldo Lopez that Chavis ripped just inside the foul pole and practically onto the left field pavilion.
So who might challenge him for the Rookie of the Year hardware that no Red Sox player has won since Pedroia in 2007? Here are some candidates, with an assist to MLB Trade Rumors.
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
Vlad the Destroyer saw the start of his big-league career delayed not by the inevitable service time manipulation, but a spring training oblique injury. Summoned on April 25, the consensus best prospect in baseball boasts insane power -- he hit a home run into the parking lot well beyond left field at Pawtucket's McCoy Stadium earlier this year off former big leaguer Bobby Poyner -- but also a patient eye that's rare for a 20-year-old. He's hitting only .152 and has yet to homer, but that could change with one swing.
2. Brandon Lowe, Rays
Lowe hit .233 over the final two months last year in his big league debut, retaining rookie eligibility by one at-bat. The Rays then aggressively signed him to a six-year, $24 million extension with options to buy out his first two years of free agency, as well. The super-utility has already played first, second, and right field, and could perhaps one day assume the mantle of versatile former Rays standout Ben Zobrist. Lowe raced to a .309-7-19 start with three steals in three chances for good measure.
3. Rowdy Tellez, Blue Jays
The burly slugger blasted six homers in his first 30 games, including a mammoth two-run shot off of Nathan Eovaldi on April 11 that was briefly (and incorrectly) measured at 505 feet. Tellez is putting up Mitch Moreland numbers -- low average, lots of power -- and the Blue Jays will take it. The former 30th round pick out of Sacramento rose to prominence in 2016 when he smashed 23 home runs at age 21 in his Double A debut and now he's trying to stick in Toronto.
4. Ty Buttrey, Angels
Here's one the Red Sox may already regret. They sent Buttrey to Anaheim last summer for second baseman Ian Kinsler, who promptly pulled a hamstring and then didn't prove especially useful. Kinsler's most memorable moment in a Red Sox uniform was throwing away what would've been the final out of Game 3 of the World Series in the 13th inning before Max Muncy walked it off in the 18th. Buttrey, meanwhile, has harnessed his 100 mph fastball with the Angels to strike out 21 in 17 innings with a 1.06 ERA and only three walks. He is a closer in waiting.
5. Spencer Turnbull, Tigers
Turnbull impressed the Red Sox during the second game of a doubleheader last month, shutting them out for five innings in Detroit's 4-2 victory. He's 2-2 with a 2.31 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 39 innings, with a power sinker and nasty slider. Unheralded entering the season thanks to injuries throughout his minor league career, Turnbull was only rated the 19th-best prospect in the Detroit system prior to being summoned, but given an opportunity, he has made the most of it.
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