PAWTUCKET – The hallmark of C.J. Chatham’s minor-league career with the Red Sox has been consistency. Give him a bat and the odds are pretty good he’ll hit .300 or at least around there.
The aspect of his 2019 production that pleases the 24-year-old the most stems from the ability to drive the baseball with a little more authority. When Chatham left Double-A Portland after Sunday’s game at Hadlock Field, he did so with an Eastern League-leading .297 batting average and 30 extra base hits, which is already a career high for the 2016 second-round pick.
To put the 26 doubles, one triple, and three home runs in proper context, it’s important to note that Chatham in 2018 amassed 25 extra base hits in 114 games between Single-A Greenville and High-A Salem. Last year, his slugging percentage was .389; this year, it’s up to .403.
With three weeks remaining, Chatham hopes his breakout tendencies continue as he moves to Triple-A. Lauded as the best hitter in the Red Sox system per Baseball America, Chatham made his PawSox debut on Tuesday night. Batting second and playing shortstop, he went hitless in four at-bats as Pawtucket fell to Norfolk, 2-0, in the first of a three-game series.
“I’ve been able to show more pop … more doubles to right-center,” said Chatham, who hit .314 last season. “I just want to keep doing what I’m doing but also make sure that I continue to progressively get better.”
Asked if reaching Triple-A was on this season’s list of short-term goals, Chatham said with a straight face that getting to the majors was what he had his sights set on. Still, there’s no denying that receiving a promotion to the level that’s directly below the big leagues is a pretty good consolation prize.
“Now I’m one step closer, but it’s definitely good to be here,” he said. “You always think that you’re ready for the next opportunity, but you’ve got to keep pushing.”
At one time, Chatham was in the conversation as possible internal replacement for Xander Bogaerts, who was originally scheduled to become a free agent after this season. The Red Sox thought enough of Bogaerts to sign him to a $120 million extension, meaning Boston’s shortstop of the present will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Chatham’s primary position is shortstop, hence it would seem a defensive change might be in order if he’s to crack the Red Sox lineup. He appeared in 78 games at shortstop with the 2019 Sea Dogs. He also logged eight games at second base, yet another position that the Sox appear to have covered thanks to Michael Chavis.
In an ironic twist, Chatham’s locker in the PawSox clubhouse at McCoy Stadium is next to Tzu-Wei Lin, a player who can play three infield positions in addition to the outfield. In Lin, Chatham has a blueprint to follow. First things first as Chatham has yet to see time as professional at either third base or the outfield.
“One day, maybe I could be one of those utility guys,” said Chatham.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03