Today, we take a look at the third undervalued
free agent (my bad, he’s signed for ’09) this winter, who will be able to help a team win some games without requiring significant dollars or a long term commitment. The next name on the list is Endy Chavez, the polar opposite of the outfielder we profiled yesterday.
See, Chavez isn’t much of a hitter. He hit .267/.308/.330 last year, and for his career, he’s got a .680 OPS and a -4.95 WPA/LI in 2,274 PA. That makes him about one win below an average hitter per full season. Considering he’s already 30, it’s unlikely he’ll be improving with the bat much. He is what he is – a slap hitter without much power who doesn’t draw walks.
But he also might just be the best defensive outfielder alive today. He’s certainly in the discussion, at least. John Dewan’s +/- system ranked him as +19 during his time between LF and RF this year – in 600 innings! In what accounts to about a half season of playing time, Dewan’s system judged Chavez to be almost 20 plays better than an average defensive corner outfielder who plays an entire season. That’s just a huge, huge difference.
The reason, of course, is that Chavez isn’t really a corner outfielder. He’s a CF who has spent time in the corners because of Carlos Beltran‘s presence on the Mets roster, and on pretty much any other team in baseball, Chavez is a CF. In fact, over the last three years, Chavez has accumulated about 360 innings in CF, and +/- gives him a +10 ranking in that time. +10 plays compared to other center fielders in about 1/4 of a season’s worth of playing time.
It doesn’t matter which system you look at – the results are all the same. Chavez is projected to be +10 to +20 runs better than an average CF over a full season, and something like +25 to +30 runs over a corner outfielder given regular playing time. The guy can cover ridiculous amounts of ground.
That defense counteracts all kinds of bad hitting. If a team sees him as a CF, and gives him 600 plate appearances, he’ll probably be a -1.5 win hitter, a +3 win defender, and a +0.5 win baserunner. Add it all up, and you’ve got a +2 win player, or approximately a league average center fielder.
Endy Chavez – league average player at a premium position. You won’t find too many teams who think he’s that good, but the defense is more valuable than almost all of them realize. He could hit .230 and still be a useful major league player, and right now, he’s established a track record of good enough hitting to be worth an everyday job. Look for some smart team this winter to snatch him up (in trade!) and turn him into the outfield version of Adam Everett.
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