Mazz: Young guns Devers and Chavis backbone of Red Sox' resurgence

May 3, 2019; Chicago, IL: Boston Red Sox second baseman Michael Chavis celebrates his two run home run with third baseman Rafael Devers during the sixth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. (Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports)
Red Sox second baseman Michael Chavis celebrates his two-run home run with third baseman Rafael Devers during the sixth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. (Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports)

By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub

As a longtime baseball sage once told me, beware of veteran players. They grow entitled. They become complacent. Especially once they win.

Which brings us to the two players on the Red Sox who warrant your attention right now: relative youngsters Rafael Devers and Michael Chavis.

While we can debate the semantics of whether the Red Sox have dug themselves out of their sizable early-season hole, let’s all agree that they certainly appear to be out of their dreadful, season-opening funk. They’re playing better. Much. And the recent performance of both Chavis and Devers suggests that the Sox could get contributions from areas in which they struggled a year ago.

And then there’s this: Chavis and Devers still have a great deal to prove – and earn – which is never a bad thing on a team that just won a championship.

The Sox, remember, began this season with the idea of batting Devers third, which speaks to both his potential and their need for a left-handed bat in the middle of the lineup. Maybe he’ll end up there – and maybe he won’t. But if the Sox can rely on him in the long-term to be a middle-of-the-order bat with Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts (if they can sign the latter), their offense should be in good shape for years to come.

Last year, the Red Sox ranked ninth among the 15 American League teams in OPS at third base. This year, they currently rank fourth. Individually, Devers ranks just sixth among qualifying AL third basemen, which sounds lower than it is. As this chart shows, there is a considerable drop between the top-6 and bottom-6.

(Courtesy ESPN.com)

As for Chavis, it’s obviously early. And for what it’s worth, at least two databases (ESPN.com and MLB.com) do not even acknowledge his contributions at second base. (They still list his totals at third base, where Chavis played in the minors.) As such, the Sox’ offensive production at second base (based on OPS) ranks dead last (15th) in the league, down from 13th a year ago.

That said, those rankings are bogus. While Chavis’ playing sample so far is small, he (and his .970 OPS) would rank first among qualifying AL second basemen at the moment in OPS if he had enough plate appearance to qualify and if he were listed as a second baseman instead of a third baseman.

(Courtesy ESPN.com)

Will this last? That’s obviously impossible to know. In the minors, remember, Chavis’ career has a clear line of demarcation, noted in red (by us) here on his minor-league page at Baseball-Reference.com.

(Courtesy baseball-reference.com)

Why the line? In 2018, Chavis was suspended after testing positive for performance-enhancers. He subsequently returned to play and had a productive second half of last year, then carried over his play into this season. But the toothpaste came out of the tubes in baseball (and in all sports) long, long ago as it relates to PEDs, and rest assured that the Red Sox (if you were to give them truth serum) would have their doubts about Chavis’ long-term viability, too.

In the interim, he has been hitting – and for both average and power. Devers has started to drive the ball a little more of late, too. And if this is all any sign of things to come, well, the Red Sox’ offense should be in good shape for the next several years.

Now they just need to start developing some pitching.

You can hear Tony Massarotti weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.