July 26, 2016 at 8:00 AM
GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Over the course of the season, the Greenville Drive has become arguably the deepest, most interesting team in the Red Sox farm system, with several potential big leaguers both on the mound and at the plate. In early July, I was able to travel down to South Carolina and take in all four games of a weekend series between the Drive and the Asheville Tourists. Today we take one last look at Greenville hitters with two pre-season top 10 prospects.
- The top position player on the Greenville roster coming into the year, Luis Alexander Basabe, got off to a slow start, but has really come on of late, putting up a .380/.458/.662 line thus far in July in 71 at bats through the 24th. Basabe is one of the toolsiest prospects in the system, flashing four plus tools. However, the one tool that lags behind is his hit tool and as a result it also makes him a very risky prospect with a large gap between his ceiling and floor.
Basabe has a projectable, athletic frame, listed at 6-foot-0, 170 pounds. He is still only 19 years old and relatively new to the game of baseball, having only picked it up a year or so prior to signing out of Venezuela. He has room in his frame to add some size as he physically matures, especially in his upper body, without losing much present athleticism.
A switch-hitter, Basabe has a vertical, slightly open stance. He holds his hands high and uses a small leg lift as his timing device. Basabe has solid bat speed and quick hands, and when he makes contact it tends to be loud. Basabe’s approach is still on the rough side as he struggles picking up spin on pitches, though he was tracking the ball better than he did last year in Lowell and looked to have a firmer grasp of the strike zone. He will always have swing-and-miss in his game, but he has the quick hands and bat speed to handle velocity. At times during the series it was noticeable that he was almost too quick with his trigger and was getting his bat out ahead of some mediocre fastballs in the 88-91 mph range from fringy right-handers. Basabe, however, has shown the propensity to use all fields already, especially from the left side of the plate where he looks more comfortable. Given he has only been playing baseball for about five years and the strides he has already made over the last year, Basabe could continue to improve at the plate and develop a fringe-average or, if you want to dream, an average hit tool. Given what else he brings to the table, however, even if he only develops a below-average hit tool, he still could be a valuable player.
At first glance, Basabe does not look like someone who would be a power threat, but he has above-average-to-plus raw power and some of that has already started to show in games. After hitting seven home runs and totaling 18 extra base hits in 222 at-bats last year, Basabe is now up to 10 home runs and 34 extra base hits in 288 at-bats. Some of those doubles are the result of his plus speed, but for the most part they stem from Basabe’s ability to square the ball up with power to all fields, though his present over the fence power is mostly to the pull side. Long-term due to the swing-and-miss and questions with his hit tool, Basabe has the potential for average game power, capable of hitting 15-or-so home runs a year, with 20-plus doubles and handful of triples in his peak.
Basabe will also add value both on the base paths due to his plus speed, and in the field where he projects as a plus defender. Basabe has shown to be an effective base stealer this year, going 17 for 19 thus far, and from the left side you will get times close to 4.1 seconds from him down the line. Defensively, Basabe profiles as a potential plus center fielder. He takes good routes out there and has a quick first steps and solid instincts. His speed is an asset for him in the field, but it is not something he relies on to bail him out because he generally gets good reads and can get to the ball with plenty of time to spare. His speed is noticeable, however, when chasing down balls in the gap as he is able to close ground quickly. Basabe also will show a plus arm in center, that would play in right field as well. He showed good accuracy and carry on his throws, and solid footwork and transfer from glove to throwing hand.
Even with all that said, Basabe is on the raw side and his future value will largely be tied up in how his hit tool develops. If his hit tool develops to even fringe-average, he projects as an everyday regular who will impact the game to some degree in all facets. If his hit tool doesn’t develop like that, however, there is a wide range of outcomes. On the low end, it could mean he struggles to get out of the high minors, but perhaps more likely is somewhere in the middle where he develops into a solid bench outfielder who can play plus defense, run, and provide some pop when called upon to play.
- 2014 first-round pick Michael Chavis was off to a strong start with Greenville, slashing .356/.415/.576 with three home runs in 59 at bats, before a thumb injury sidelined him for an over a month. Since his return in June, Chavis has struggled to regain his pre-injury form, putting up a .226 average with 34 strikeouts and only three home runs in 124 at bats as of July 24. The thumb injury could have something to do with the lack of power, but as a whole when I saw Chavis recently in Greenville a lot of the same issues remained that plagued him last year, and he’s clearly fallen behind Basabe and first baseman Josh Ockimey when it comes to prospect status of the Greenville hitters.
Chavis has a shorter, stocky frame, listed at 5-foot-10, 210 pounds. He looks to have lost some weight from last year, but does not have much projection remaining. He has a thick lower half and looks physically almost like he should be a catcher. At the plate, Chavis starts open and utilizes a leg lift timing device. He keeps his hands high before bringing them back and up late with a slight hitch. Chavis has solid bat speed and strong wrists, but his swing has some length to it and as a result he has trouble with velocity, especially up in the zone and inside. Right now, Chavis is also very pull oriented, which causes him to make a fair amount of weak contact on the ground to the left side. A far bigger issue than his approach is the amount of swing-and-miss Chavis still has in his game. Though his strikeout percentage has dropped from 30.6 percent last year to a more manageable 21 percent this year, Chavis still swings and misses a lot. His pitch recognition is also still a work in progress and as a result he often gets caught out in front of breaking balls out of the zone. He also does not shorten up with two strikes, which compounds the problem. Chavis is still young and has time to develop an all-fields approach and improve his pitch recognition, but even with strides in those areas, he still will strikeout a fair amount especially as the pitching gets better at higher levels. For these reasons, it’s a stretch at this point to project him to have anything better than a fringe-average hit tool long-term.
Given his size, Chavis does generate above-average-to-plus raw power, but at this point his game power does not project to play at that level, even in his peak. Chavis generates his power from his strong lower half and wrists. He showed the ability to drive the ball with backspin both in batting practice, especially to the pull side, and in game action, putting a nice swing on a fastball up in the zone and hitting it out just to the right of center field, 400-plus feet in the series scouted. Long-term, how Chavis power plays will depend on the adjustments he makes at the plate, but given his defensive profile, he is going to have to hit for power to be a successful major leaguer.
Defensively, Chavis has an above-average arm, plenty for third base, though his accuracy will let him down at times. The issues mainly stemmed from his footwork and look to be something that can be cleaned up. He only played the field twice in the four games scouted, but in infield drills prior to the games, he looked better than he did last year, likely the result of the weight he lost. He looked more agile and comfortable charging the ball, though his hands still are not great and he lacks fluidity at the position.
Chavis is still an intriguing prospect and belongs in the top 15 of the system, however, his future is a little murky. His bat looks like it will be too fringy to profile at third base and defensively it is no guarantee that he can even stick at the position. Given the Red Sox have Rafael Devers in Salem ahead of him on the depth chart and since third base could also be a long-term fit for Yoan Moncada, Chavis needs to show significant progress over the next year in order to regain the prospect status he had coming into last year.
Photo credit: Luis Alexander Basabe and Michael Chavis by Kelly O'Connor
Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.