First base is generally seen as a deep position and it could be getting even deeper as a new wave of young talent arrives in the Majors. Two of those youngsters reside in the American League, as we’ve already seen the Red Sox’ Michael Chavis make a statement in ’19 and the contract signed by the Mariners’ Evan White paves the way for him to open the year as the team’s starter. The question now is whether either can make an impact this season, and whether or not the risk outweighs any potential reward:
Michael Chavis – Boston Red Sox
Chavis played extensively at both first and second base last season and delivered by hitting .254 with 18 HR over 347 AB. While the production was solid, there are two significant questions hanging over his already mediocre batting average:
- BABIP – .347 (despite a 33.6% Hard%)
- Strikeout Rate – 33.2% (courtesy of an 18.6% SwStr%)
Chavis struggled to make contact against all types of pitches, and things could ultimately get worse as opposing pitchers potentially decrease the number of fastballs he sees (64.85%). Just look at the Whiff% from his rookie season:
- Hard – 14.85%
- Breaking Balls – 28.64%
- Offspeed – 29.91%
Maybe there’s a slight improvement, though over the past two seasons in the minors he’s posted a 13.9% SwStr%. There is power in his bat, but is it enough to offset the potential to hit .230 or worse? That’s the big question, and the answer is probably not.
Evan White – Seattle Mariners
Thanks to the contract White could easily jump directly from Double-A to the Majors, though when you start digging in it’s easy to envision a trip to Triple-A at some point even without the need to manipulate service time. Strikeouts are going to be the biggest question facing him, and that could easily drag down his average into the unusable territory. Just look at the key numbers from his 400 PA at Double-A a year ago:
- Strikeout Rate – 26.6%
- SwStr% – 12.4%
The jump in levels could lead to these numbers getting significantly worse, and a 30+% strikeout rate is easy to envision. There is some power in his bat, but is it 30+ HR potential? He’s clearly learning and developing in that regard, and it could come in time, but to think that it will come all at once would be misguided. It’s not like he was an extra base machine last season (13 doubles, 2 triples, 18 HR) and with the strikeout risk the outlook gets dragged down.
Maybe he figures it out and catches fire, but he’s a long-shot bench gamble on draft day and nothing more (outside of those in dynasty/keeper formats).
If you are targeting one of these two youngsters Chavis would be the first choice. He’s already proven he can do it in the Majors and shown that the power could be there. That doesn’t make him an ideal option, but there’s far more risk in White, who even with the contract could find himself back down in the minors as opposed to being locked into MLB at bats.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball