Who Is Johermyn Chavez?

With the recent trade (likely to be finalized today) of Seattle’s Brandon Morrow for Toronto’s Brandon League and a prospect, a lot of people have been weighing in with their opinions of the trade. As someone who follows the Jays’ minor league system very closely, I thought I’d chime in with my thoughts on Johermyn Chavez, the young Venezuelan outfielder who is said to be the “prospect.” Most of the people who have commented on his status have looked at the “glass-half-empty.”

Chavez’s first name is pronounced: Yo-Her-Min, and his name was originally spelled “Yohermyn” when he first came stateside, but he personally spells it with a “J.” He’s played mostly left field in his career, in deference to fellow outfield prospect Moises Sierra, who has perhaps the strongest outfield arm in the minors (at least Top 3). Chavez, himself, also has a plus throwing arm and profiles as a solid right fielder with average range. Due to his inexperience, at just 20 years of age, he does make too many gaffs in the field (He needs to take better routes to the ball) and on his throws.

At the plate, Chavez had a solid season in low-A ball. A lot of people have pointed to the fact that he was repeating the level, but Chavez was just 19 in his first attempt at the league, so a mulligan is well deserved. Here are his triple-slash lines from his two low-A seasons:

’08 – .211/.272/.323 in 402 at-bats
’09 – .283/.346/.474 in 508 at-bats

It’s definitely a big difference with his OPS jumping from .595 to .821 and a wOBA that rises almost .100 points from .277 to .371. His ISO also rose from .112 to .191 and Chavez finished second in the league (known for surpressing home-run totals) with 21 homers. He was behind only Kyle Russell, a 23-year-old former college star. Chavez finished tied with the Cubs’ Kyler Burke for third in RBI with 89. The Lansing team as a whole was middle-of-the-pack in the league when it came to offense (runs scored, RBI, OPS). According to Baseball America, the average triple-slash line for the Midwest League in ’09 was .256/.329/.373 and the average ISO was just .119. The average age of players in low-A ball was 21.6.

There are definitely some rough edges to the youngster’s game. He can be overly aggressive at the plate, and swing at too many “pitcher’s pitches.” His walk rate was 7.3%, which isn’t terrible, but we’d definitely prefer to see it at the 10.2% he reached in rookie ball in 2007, if not higher. His power output makes a high strikeout rate more palatable but his rate of 27% needs to come down if he’s going to hit more consistently at the upper levels of the minors – and in the Majors (His .351 BABIP helped out this season).

Chavez has also shown some speed on the base paths, although he has filled out quite a bit and now checks in at 6’3” 220 lbs. A few years ago, he weighed 180, so he’s added a lot of muscle. He needs to improve his base running a bit. Over the past two seasons, he’s stolen 19 base but he’s been caught 11 times.

By reading other Websites, such as USSmariner, it’s clear that a lot of people were hoping for a more MLB-ready prospect like right-hander Zach Stewart, or infielder Brett Wallace. They are certainly more desirable prospects at this point, so I understand the disappointment that many felt when it was announced the prospect was going to be a player in the low minors.

However, Chavez was certainly one of the Top 10 prospects (in a weaker system) that I had hoped would not be included in a trade, but he was in the latter half of the list. The outfielder originally signed his first pro contract at the age of 16 in 2005. He’s come a long way since then, and it certainly appears as though the Mariners organization acquired a diamond in the rough.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Thanks for the more complete info. Do you have any MLB comps that he could turn into, representing high end/most likely/low end possibilities? Just from a quick search, it looks like Aaron Rowand might be a good comp for a reasonable high-end scenario, in which he brings his K rate down and remains a plus defender. Rowand’s averaged 3.35 WAR per year over the past six years, so if you account for the ~1-win difference between CF and RF, it looks like Chavez could potentially become a league-average player, which would be valuable.