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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Dingo
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Dingo
6 years 7 months ago

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.

Darryl
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Darryl
6 years 7 months ago

Thanks for this Marc. Would love to see some more on the Jays farm system.

The Ancient Mariner
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The Ancient Mariner
6 years 7 months ago

Thanks very much for this. As an M’s fan, I was originally quite unhappy with the reports, but the more I read and think about it, the more I look into League and Chavez, the more it sounds like a fair deal to me. Certainly, from your comments, the initial “He’s just another Greg Halman” reaction seems to be incorrect.

And this dude is going to *love* hitting in Adelanto . . .

Jstay
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Jstay
6 years 7 months ago

Hopefully he gets traded to a new team because the mariners seem to reek havoc on their minor leaguers, up and down, starter to reliever, back and forth, maybe jack z will change it, but morrow is the perfect example of how they used to do things, not only to pitchers but hitters too

ThundaPC
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ThundaPC
6 years 7 months ago

Rest assured the Mariners are not doing things the Bavasi way anymore. That includes rushing prospects up before they’re ready and turning all of our hitters to hacking machines.

The changes Zduriencik made have been from top to bottom including how the minor league system is handled. Johermyn Chavez has nothing to worry about.

Paul
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Paul
6 years 7 months ago

The deal is just flat-out not fair unless Morrow is a reliever only. Essentially they gave up on him and think their great IF defense will lead to the breakthrough that people have been looking for League to make for a while. That’s not a bad guess, but only because he’s moving from turf to grass. The IF defense for the Mariners is not leaps and bounds better than Toronto’s has been, but maybe the grass slows down all those ground balls. But really this is not a fair deal unless they don’t think Morrow can ever be a starter.

As for Chavez, I take issue with a couple of the points here. First, I’m a little skeptical of the average age in the MWL of 21.6. Maybe that is an overall age, but it’s certainly not an average age for a player considered to be a top prospect. For a 19 “prospect” to have to repeat the MWL is justified if it is that player’s very first exposure to US pro ball, which it was not, or simply because it is the MWL, which is a notoriously bad league for hitters, especially Latin players who have a hard time adapting to the cold spring.

So given all that, this deal is the ultimate in putting your faith in Jack Z. If he’s right on the Morrow/League dynamic, and his scouting of Chavez yields an impact RF in the Dye mold, he’ll be legendary even outside of the USS Mariner message board. However, the deal does have huge potential for a backfire. If Morrow turns into a number 3 starter and is able to stay healthy, he has the stuff to really help them in the AL East. Which is why I suspect there is some heartburn and disbelief in Mariner Nation.

The Ancient Mariner
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The Ancient Mariner
6 years 7 months ago

At this point, Morrow has one fewer effective pitch than League–and League’s fastball seems to be better, to boot. Yes, League has issues, but Morrow has the same issues. The advantage to having Morrow is that he has less service time, and thus more time to get it figured out.

opisgod
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opisgod
6 years 7 months ago

This is why i still can’t believe Jays fans think they are getting anything out of this trade. Morrow has injury issues, the reasons lie in his combined Inverted L/W and resulting timing problem. Putting him in the rotation with those mechanics and expecting him to stay healthy is stupid and futile, and trying to change them will be near impossible due to muscle memory issues. So now he’s stuck as a reliever, which has little value, and to get him they gave up a developed League, who could very well be given a shot at starting again, and a decent prospect. Morrow is also only a year younger than League, and 25 is a little old for a fireballer with no decent secondary pitch and control Daniel Cabrera would be laughing at.

CaR
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CaR
6 years 7 months ago

Morrow has one of the 5 best fb’s in the AL, if not the big leagues. Brandon League throws hard, not the same thing. Morrow’s only consistent pitch over his short career is his high fb, its a beauty and the reason why scouting departments all over baseball have remained very interested in him.
Very similar in effect to a young Mariano Rivera, but alas, no consistent secondary options, or control. We’re going to have to wait this trade out. I don’t see a win for the M’s here.

opisgod
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opisgod
6 years 7 months ago

I’d take a 96 mph sinker over a 96 mph rising fastball every time. Why? Because groundballs usually don’t end up in bleachers.

CaR
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CaR
6 years 7 months ago

Perhaps, but the ceiling of Morrow with his fb (plus other stuff) is pretty high. You would have to watch him pitch, that fb is an over match for pretty much everyone. The low-end projection on Morrow is roughly = to what League might do when he gets it together.

There is no question as to who the more valuable property is, only who will be more helpful short-term. As stated below, why throw in Chavez if the deal was straight across?

ayjackson
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ayjackson
6 years 7 months ago

If Morrow’s just a reliever, Seattle should be the one chipping in a prospect.

Christian Seehausen
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Christian Seehausen
6 years 7 months ago

I don’t think this trade is lopsided. It seems to me that Brandon League has the potential to be an elite closer if he can maintain this year’s performance. At worst he should be a solid middle reliever in the long run.

Based on Morrow’s walk rate throughout his career and his injury history, I wouldn’t want to bet on him sticking as a starting pitcher at all, let alone a top to middle rotation starter.

Realist
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Realist
6 years 7 months ago

Dave beat me to it: Chavez is an A-ball version of Wladimir Balentien.

The Ancient Mariner
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The Ancient Mariner
6 years 7 months ago

I don’t think that washes. On the one hand, in Wlad’s favor, he was more advanced at 20, playing in the A+ Cal League, having posted an .834 OPS in the MWL at 19. On the other hand, in a far more favorable hitter’s environment (Inland Empire), he struck out 160 times and walked 33 in 539 PA: K/BB of 4.85, K% of 29.7%, and BB% of 6.1%. Chavez, by contrast, in 569 PA, fanned 137 times and walked 40: K/BB of 3.43, K% of 24.0%, and BB% of 7.0%. His plate discipline still needs a lot of work, he’s still a lottery ticket, but he’s distinctly better than Wlad in that area.

Logan
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Logan
6 years 7 months ago

Marc-

Good stuff.

How possible is Dave’s hypothesis that this was actually part of the Lee deal? Do GM’s actually follow oral commitments?

Taylor H
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6 years 7 months ago

Mariners fans own the internet.

West
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West
6 years 7 months ago

Morrow will always be remembered for being taken ahead of Lincecum, but if the Mariners drafted Lincecum, Bill Bavasi would still be employed and giving out bad contracts. Good move for the Jays though, I think Morrow can still start and be very good.

John
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John
6 years 7 months ago

Does anyone know League’s statistics in outings where he went for 1 inning or less vs. more than 1 inning (or possibly where he went out for the half inning and got 1-3 outs and then came back out again)? I recall they gave the simple stats on a Jays’ radio broadcast and they were astoundingly different (something like a 2.00 ERA vs. 10.00 ERA, respectively).

Seemingly, he just cannot go out there a second time for whatever reason (conditioning, mental toughness). If the Mariners figure this out, and it’s not just a statistical anamoly, he could be lights out.

opisgod
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opisgod
6 years 7 months ago

And then he goes out and shuts down the Yankees for 3 innings, it’s a result of the unpredictability of the bullpen. It’s also noticeable that these “blowups” often start with the Jays infield forgetting how to field groundballs.

Paul
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Paul
6 years 7 months ago

Jays decided not to field? So maybe at home, where League had a sOPS+ of 119 they decided not to field, but on the road playing on grass, where his sOPS+ was 55, they decided to field.

There is no doubt Jack Z. is looking at the high FB%, gigantic home/road (and aturf/grass) split, and somewhat tough park for pitchers in Toronto, and sees the opposite conditions for League in his org.

That’s all fine, except that if you look at League’s game log from last season all of those games where he gave up multiple runs show a pattern. In most of them his BB%, HR%, FB% and LD% was much higher and SO% much lower. Maybe those games were also on short rest because his splits are clear that he needs rest. On two days rest he dominated, one day rest okay, back-to-back rocked. Or maybe those games were where he pitched in the 8th or 9th inning because there was also a very large difference between his 8-9+ inning games and <7th inning. He had a large L/R split. Baseball-ref has it all.

In other words, Brandon League will be one of the best relievers in baseball behind that defense and in that park IF he is used on more than 1 day of rest, in innings 6 and 7, and avoids lefthanded batters. He is the definition of the fungible relief pitcher.

opisgod
Member
opisgod
6 years 7 months ago

John Mcdonald just standing there watching that ground ball trickle slowly by him comes to mind. And wouldnt a trend where extra days of rest result in better performances=being better suited in the rotation? I know for one thing that the development of his splitter significantly improved his L/R splits, it’s not nearly as much of a problem now.

Paul
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Paul
6 years 7 months ago

He is still worse than league average against LHers. He has never started a game in the major leagues. It could be that he would be better off as a starter, but he has never started a single game in the major leagues. It could also be that he is a low leverage two inning pitcher who can’t pitch back-to-back days. But that’s just what his actual performance to date suggests – maybe Jack Z’s crystal ball shows otherwise.

Again, if Morrow is just a reliever he’s no better than League. I’m not saying it’s a bad play, but chances are good that League is pretty limited. Given their improved bullpen and excellent defense, he’d be a huge plus as a 6-7th inning bridge guy, which is what Keith Law has been saying for years. I’m just guessing that’s the play here, and again, if Morrow is just a reliever it’s a good one.

Renegade
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Renegade
6 years 7 months ago

Err… apart from the last few months – the Jays infield usually consisted of John McDonald/Marco Scutaro, Aaron Hill, Lyle Overbay and Scott Rolen. Probably one of the strongest defensive infields in the Majors. Try again, I guess? League has nasty stuff, but he can also be incredibly inconsistent. After one inning of work, he is downright awful. Jays win this trade if only because Morrow has a chance of being a starter.

opisgod
Member
opisgod
6 years 7 months ago

You just listed a bunch of defensively overrated players and one good fielder in decline, good job. In 2009 the Blue Jays UZR was 5th worst in the AL and their pitchers BABIP against was 4th worst. Try again I guess?

twinsfan
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twinsfan
6 years 7 months ago

Their outfield accounted for about -30 runs, while their infield was basically an even 0.

Brian Cartwright
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Brian Cartwright
6 years 7 months ago

I’ll second the Chavez comp to Balientien.

I’ve projected him at 239/294/435 BB% 57 SO% 304

Lots of power, strike zone issues.

And he may have a strong arm, but his range comes out around -9 runs.

Total -13 RAR at age 20 in A ball. Not an optimistic projection.

BTW, I have the average age of players in the Midwest League who have later gone on to MLB at 21. I use that to determine over or under age in calculating my projections.

Daniel
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Daniel
6 years 7 months ago

Why don’t we just have in-depth stories on ALL the mediocre prospects with the Mariners!

longgandhi
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longgandhi
6 years 7 months ago

That would be a website unto itself.

exxrox
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exxrox
6 years 7 months ago

League can be very nasty, but as was said, is so inconsistent that he can’t be relied on. If you look at certain months in his career, he is lights out. Sometimes for more than a month. Then he will lose it. I won’t speculate as to what factors into this (rest? leverage? injuries? his head?) but I would not trust him late in the game. Morrow has a greater chance at being a dominant closer in his future with the Jays, as well as a greater chance at being an average-to-good starter. With more service time, for a rebuilding team. League had no place on the Blue Jays any more.

It’s worth noting that AA said that 1. he will be tried as a SP and 2. he is comparable to Burnett.

This trade is between two fairly new, so far impressive, GMs. Fans of both teams like what has been done this offseason. Let’s just see how it plays out.

opisgod
Member
opisgod
6 years 7 months ago

“comparable to burnett”

Yep, lots of Blue Jays have that inverted L in their deliveries, their scouts must be clueless.

Matt
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Matt
6 years 7 months ago

A good write up but no mention of Chavez being RULE 5 Draft eligible.

Sammy
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6 years 4 months ago

I watched Chavez play all year in Lansing last year and was really surprised he stayed there. The Jays, from what I hear, tend to keep the Latino’s in low A a little longer than American/Canadian players. They put an emphasis on learning the culture, the language, and managing finances so when they leave Lansing, they more equipped to handle the game. I had a few conversations with him in English and he seems like he has a good head on him.

Chavez definitely has the ability to be explosive, but he swings at a lot of bad pitches. I think the comparison to Jermaine Dye is pretty accurate.

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