Note: During the MLB shutdown, the Globe will revisit its offseason "Around the Horn” series of position-by-position looks at the Red Sox to update with what we learned in spring training. Today: Second base.
The starter at second base for the Red Sox is still up in the air, manager Ron Roenicke explained during spring training.
Jose Peraza and Michael Chavis are solid ballplayers, but neither carries the résumé or star power of, say, a Rafael Devers or Xander Bogaerts.
"The option is between, really, Peraza and Chavis,” Roenicke said. "That’s basically what we’re looking at there. We wait and we see.
"Really, I know what I would like to do, but if somebody starts swinging the bat and they’re playing great defense, they’re going to play more.”
But does Roenicke favor one over the other as the everyday guy?
If he did, he said with a smile, "I wouldn’t say anything to you.”
Some of it depends on what the Sox decide to do with Mitch Moreland. Is he the everyday first baseman or a platoon type? If it’s the latter, then perhaps Peraza is the everyday fit at second, with Chavis filling in at first when Moreland doesn’t play.
But if Moreland can stay healthy for a season — to this point in his career, he hasn’t — then maybe it’s a tighter battle at second.
Chavis made an impact last year in his rookie season, hitting .254 with 18 homers. He made 49 appearances at first base and 45 at second.
He stayed around the .260 mark all season until he hit just .156 in 11 games in August after dealing with a shoulder injury. His last game was Aug. 11, and shortly after that, the Sox placed him on the injured list. Once he recovered and was on track to return, he strained his lat.
By that time, though, Chavis had made an impression, going from what was supposed to be a cup a coffee in the majors to being a mainstay on the roster.
"I’d be lying if I said it didn’t worry me at times,” Chavis said last season, regarding the possibility of being sent down. "There was a time period where I was worried about that every single day.”
The Sox have a new boss in chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, so Chavis will have to make another impression. Still, he entered spring training with a bit more clarity on what his focus should be: playing multiple positions and being as athletic as possible.
"I don’t really know where I’m playing or where I’m going to be needed,” Chavis said at the start of spring, "so I’m just making sure I’m available and ready to go wherever I’m needed.”
Chavis has been known for his power since high school.
"The one thing that jumped out right away was his bat speed and strength in his swing,” Mike Rikard, the Red Sox vice president of amateur scouting, said last season. "We were able to scout several batting practices with him [in high school], and one of the big turn-ons for me is a guy that can hit the ball just as far the other way as he can pulling the ball.”
The power has translated to the big leagues, but so too have the swings-and-misses, which resulted in a 33.2 percent strikeout rate last season. Nevertheless, opponents have to respect the power threat.
The biggest concern is in the field; Chavis is a tweener and doesn’t really have a position. Playing every day could expose his weaknesses a bit more.
So that probably makes Peraza the safer bet. Though he can play multiple positions, second is where he has the most experience.
"Second base is my most comfortable position,” Peraza said during spring training. "I played a lot of second base in the minors. I know I can help this team playing there.”
Peraza hit just .239 with the Reds last season, but the year before that, he hit .288 in 683 plate appearances.
Before the spring was cut short, he was 7 for 30.
The Red Sox have enough power in the order with J.D. Martinez, Bogaerts, and Devers; former manager Alex Cora said last year he felt the team struck out too much. Peraza can help with that.
His career high in strikeout percentage was just 14.4 percent in 2019. In 2018, it was just 11 percent. Additionally, Peraza has an 86.5 career contact percentage. He isn’t a big on-base guy, but that could be because he has such great bat-to-ball skills.
During the spring, he left an impression on the Sox and hitting coach Tim Hyers.
"He’s going to surprise some people,” Hyers said. "Jose’s a good player. We think he’s going to hit.”
The sudden halt of spring training left the Sox with little definition at second base, but it feels as if it’s Peraza’s position to lose.
Second base outlook
Primary 2019 starter: Brock Holt
Projected 2020 starter: Jose Peraza
Major league depth: Michael Chavis
Prospects to watch: C.J. Chatham, Jonathan Arauz