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Champ or Chump: Michael Chavis and Mike Soroka


The topic of the day is former first-round picks with the first name "Michael" currently owned in approximately 50% of fantasy leagues. In truth, the fact that both of the players discussed below fit all of those criteria is nothing more than happy circumstance, but both players deserve more fantasy attention than they're currently getting.

Michael Chavis has done nothing but rake since the Red Sox summoned him to the big club, slashing .313/.436/.625 with three homers in 39 PAs. Mike Soroka has been even more impressive as a member of the Braves rotation, compiling a 1.62 ERA that's largely supported by his 2.82 xFIP in his 16 2/3 IP. Both players appear primed for continued success, though maybe not quite to the extent we've seen thus far.

Keep in mind, our Champ / Chump conclusions are based on whether we think a player will outperform their expectations. For example, a pitcher we view as "Tier 2" can be a Champ if they're seen as a Tier 3 pitcher, or they could be a Chump if they're perceived as a Tier 1 pitcher. All ownership rates are from Yahoo! leagues unless otherwise noted. Let's take a closer look at Chavis and Soroka, shall we?

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Michael Chavis (2B/3B, BOS)

44% Owned

Chavis was widely regarded as one of the top power-hitting prospects in the 2014 First Year Player's Draft, but he had a relatively slow ascent up the MiLB ladder. The light bulb finally went on in 2017, when he slashed .250/.310/.492 with 14 HR over just 274 PAs in his first exposure to the Double-A level. He posted the fly ball rate (45.8%) and HR/FB (15.9%) you want to see from a power bat, and even kept the strikeouts manageable (20.4% K% vs. 7.3% BB%). His .265 BABIP was on the low side, so there was even a chance that his solid campaign should have been better.

Unfortunately, Chavis earned a PED suspension for his 2017 efforts that cut his 2018 season short by 80 games. He tore Double-A pitching to shreds when he got back onto the field (.303/.388/.508 with six homers in 139 PAs), earning a brief crack at Triple-A before the season ended. His FB% cratered to 35.3%, but he still posted a 20% HR/FB. Both his strikeout (25.2 K%) and walk (9.4 BB%) spiked, but his .383 BABIP shielded his batting average from any adverse effects.

Chavis was in 2017 form to begin this season at Triple-A, slashing .250/.354/.600 with four dingers in 48 PAs before his promotion. His plate discipline metrics looked outstanding (18.8 K%, 14.6% BB%), and he got his fly ball rate back up to 43.3%. Heck, his 30.8% HR/FB even supports his current MLB mark of 30%. Both are ridiculously small sample sizes, but it helps that FanGraphs gave his raw power a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale this season. Likewise, Baseball Savant's scouting report graded his power out at 60.

In short, Chavis's prospect pedigree and minor league history both suggest that he is an able power bat at the tender age of 23. The sample size isn't large enough yet to put too much stock in his 100.3 mph average airborne exit velocity or 20% rate of Brls/BBE, but both are outstanding. If you're looking for a legitimate power bat with multi-positional eligibility, Chavis is your guy.

That said, the under on his current .313 batting average is a safe bet. While Chavis is walking a lot (15.4 BB%, 24.2% chase rate), his 16.2 SwStr% suggests that his 25.6% strikeout rate is more likely to increase than decrease. Similarly, it's tough to run a .368 BABIP with a strong fly ball bent (45.5 FB%) and a microscopic 9.1 LD%, especially since his MiLB resume supports both metrics to an extent.

Still, Chavis figures to walk enough to post a worthy OBP to compliment his power production. He also hit fifth on Wednesday afternoon, the most recent game at writing. The biggest risk with Chavis is that he loses playing time to a veteran, but Dustin Pedroia looks cooked. Even if Pedroia makes a miraculous comeback, Chavis is good enough to replace the disappointing Rafael Devers at third or the yawn platoon of Mitch Moreland and Steve Pierce at first base. He'll play, and he'll play well.

Verdict: Champ (based on sub-50% ownership rate)

Mike Soroka (SP, ATL)

54% Owned

Soroka will be 21 years old for the vast majority of this season, making his performance thus far (and the fact that he logged 25 2/3 IP at the MLB level last year) all the more impressive. He should stay in the majors for the rest of the season simply because he has nothing left to prove on the farm.

Soroka first cracked the High Minors in 2017, working 153 2/3 innings of 2.75 ERA, 3.28 xFIP ball at Double-A. His 19.9 K% doesn't jump off of the page, but he didn't walk anybody (5.4 BB%) and limited damage on contact (.275 BABIP, 6.8% HR/FB). This was in keeping with his Baseball Savant scouting report, which states that Soroka effectively pitches to contact rather than try to strike everybody out.

Soroka graduated to Triple-A in 2018, posting a 2.00 ERA and 2.21 xFIP over 27 IP. His K% surged to 29.8% while his walks held steady (5.8 BB%), suggesting an arm that's getting better even as his quality of competition improves. He also flashed the contract suppression skills from his Double-A tenure (.299 BABIP, 0% HR/FB), inspiring the Braves to try him in the Show.

Soroka only struck out 18.6% of the hitters who faced him in his MLB debut, but he limited walks (6.2 BB%) en route to holding his own (3.51 ERA, 3.63 xFIP in 25 2/3 IP) as a 20-year old. Sadly, elbow inflammation put him on the DL in mid-May and he never managed to pitch again in 2018.

Thus far, Soroka has spent 2019 making up for lost time. He's striking out the world (29.6 K%) with only a marginal increase in BB% (8.5%), mirroring the progress he seemed to be making at Triple-A. Unlike most highly-touted prospects, Soroka doesn't have stuff that wows you. However, Baseball Savant grades his command as a 60 on the 20-80 scale, and his fastball, slider, and change all rate above average to plus.

Soroka's sinker is the most-used pitch in his arsenal (39.5% used), and what it lacks in strikeout potential (5.9 SwStr%, 49.5 Zone%) it makes up for in ground ball rate (78.9%). Thanks in large part to this pitch, Soroka's xStats (.196 xBA, .234 xSLG) are even better than his actual numbers (.210 BA, .242 SLG).

Soroka can also get Ks when he wants to. His fastball is usually in the 92-93 mph range, but he can dial it up to 96 when needed. It has a strong spin rate (2,349 RPM) and very strong 12% SwStr% on the campaign so far. Soroka's preferred secondary offering is his slide piece (11.7 SwStr%, 39 Zone%, 36.2% chase rate), but his change looks like it could be his biggest weapon (26.9 SwStr%, 38.5 Zone%, 31.3% chase) despite only being thrown 9.4% of the time.

In short, Soroka's K% is likely to decline not because he lacks physical ability, but because he prefers to induce weak contact and pile up outs (and innings) in an era where that's increasingly hard to find. The Braves are a perfectly respectable club, so his supporting cast should generate his fair share of Ws. Honestly, this kid's ownership rate should be pushing 100%, not 55.

Verdict: Champ (based on 54% ownership rate)

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