It was a surprising move of sorts when the Pirates acquired Michael Chavis from the Red Sox in exchange for left-hander Austin Davis during last year’s trade deadline. The move reunited Chavis with Ben Cherington, the man who selected Chavis with the 26th pick of the 2014 MLB Draft as the general manager in Boston.
In Boston, Chavis had trouble finding regular playing time, appearing sparingly across three seasons, totaling 168 games. He owned a .234 batting average with a .704 OPS during his Red Sox tenure. His power was certainly on display, totaling 25 homers. The main issue for Chavis’ struggles in Boston were strikeouts. He fanned 209 times in 622 plate appearances (33.6 K%).
The sample size so far in Pittsburgh is small, but Chavis and the Pirates have to be encouraged by the fact that he is putting the ball in play consistently. Through his first 64 plate appearances in a Pirates uniform, he’s only struck out 12 times (18.8 K%), and only twice so far in 2022. “I just got an awesome opportunity here,” said Chavis about his early success in his new opportunity wearing the black and gold.
There’s a reason for his improved production, something Chavis spoke about after Sunday’s win over the Nationals. “A lot of it was not trying to do so much,” said Chavis. “Subconsciously it’s so easy to fall in that trap of trying to hit a home run or trying to destroy the ball every single time. I’m really just trying to catch it on the barrel right now and that’s really what’s showing up.”
That approach has made a drastic impact for Chavis, who is slashing .450/.500/.750 over his first seven games of the season. The 26-year old is encouraged by his early success, and wants to keep utilizing his new, simplified approach.
“I’m not expecting to hit .500 the whole year,” he said with a chuckle. “In regards to the at-bats and putting the barrel on the ball I think that’s definitely something I’m very happy with. I’m just going to keep trying to do that.”
For a team that is fairly heavy on left-handed hitters, Chavis provides a big boost to the team when facing a southpaw on the mound, but Chavis is producing at a level where he could see increased playing time against right-handers too. So far this season, he has four hits in five at-bats against righties.
Chavis’ defensive versatility gives the Pirates multiple avenues for finding him playing time. In his big league career, he’s played at first, second and third base, and has appeared in both corner outfield positions.
The low risk gamble has so far paid off for both Chavis and the Pirates. Chavis has played a key role in the early success of the Pirates in 2022.