It might be time to start paying attention to C.J. Chatham.
Chatham, a second-round draft pick in 2016, is having a solid spring training for the Boston Red Sox, both offensively and defensively. There’s no clear path to the majors for Chatham at this point, but he’s at least caught the attention of Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who recently dropped an interesting player comparison when discussing the 24-year-old shortstop.
“He’s good, man,” Cora, a former infielder, said in Fort Myers, Fla., per MassLive.com. “I wish I was that tall. J.J. Hardy had a great career. He was a great shortstop. He had a good career. Physically, he reminds me of him. Hopefully he can have a career like him. Tall, lanky. I think he’s going to hit. But defensively he makes all the routine plays, which is good.”
Hardy played for three teams (Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins and Baltimore Orioles) over the course of his 13-year major league career (2005-17). He earned two All-Star selections, three Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger. He hit at least 22 home runs on five different occasions.
While Cora isn’t exactly suggesting Chatham’s career will mirror Hardy’s, the casual comparison makes sense. Chatham is listed at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds and Hardy was listed at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, but they have a similar body type. It’ll be interesting to see how Chatham develops in 2019, especially given the strides he’s made in big league camp this spring.
“Early in camp he was swinging at everything,” Cora said, per MassLive.com. “Little by little he’s been noticing that if you swing at pitches in the zone, you can drive them. So I think that’s a good learning experience for him.”
Chatham is the Red Sox’s No. 8 prospect, according to MLB.com. He hit .314 with three home runs, 52 RBIs, 11 stolen bases and a .739 OPS in 114 games last season split between High-A Salem (95 games) and Single-A Greenville (19 games), and he could begin this season at Double-A Portland.
Chatham isn’t on the Red Sox’s 40-man roster, so he might not debut with Boston in 2019. But with Xander Bogaerts slated to become a free agent next winter, it’s fair to wonder whether Chatham will factor into the Red Sox’s shortstop plans down the road.