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Endy Chávez

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Endy DeJesus Chávez

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[edit] Biographical Information

Endy Chávez is a speedy centerfielder, though he has played the other two outfield positions as well; he seems to embody the ideal lead-off hitter, but is actually more suited to other roles.

[edit] Minor League Career

A native of Venezuela, he signed his first professional contract with the New York Mets organization and first played organized baseball in the Dominican Summer League in 1996. After sporting a glittering .354 batting average in 48 games, he was promoted to the United States in 1997. He kept up the solid batting averages in the minors, but with little power and few runs batted in. In 2000, he scored 84 runs for the Class A St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League, thanks to 129 hits and 47 bases on balls; he also stole 38 bases in 111 games that year, but, since the Mets failed to add his name to their Major League roster, he was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 2000 Rule V Draft.

Chavez failed to earn a spot with the Royals at their 2001 spring training, but he showed enough promise for the Royals to offer minor league outfielder Michael Curry to the Mets in order to keep Chavez in their organization. Starting the season with the AA Wichita Wranglers, he hit .298 in 43 games to earn a promotion to the American League. He made his debut on May 29, but only hit .208 in 29 games and only scored 4 runs. That sent him back to the AAA Omaha Royals for the rest of the year, where he hit an excellent .337 in 23 games. However, the Royals placed him on waivers in December to open a spot on their major league roster and he was claimed by the Detroit Tigers on December 20. He barely made it to the opening of spring training with his new team before being put on waivers a second time on February 22, 2002. The Montreal Expos, who up to that point had been prevented by the threat of contraction from adding players to their minor league roster, picked up Chavez to beef up their AAA line-up. Newly-appointed Expos General Manager Omar Minaya knew Chavez well from his days as assistant GM of the Mets and may well have asked the Tigers to make him available.

[edit] The very last Expos batter

Signing with the Expos was the break Chavez had been waiting for. After only three weeks with the AAA Ottawa Lynx, he was called up to Montreal to replace the struggling Peter Bergeron as the team's regular centerfielder. Inserted into the line-up on his first day, May 7, 2002, he had a horrendous National League debut, going 0 for 5 while committing a key error that cost his team the game against the Colorado Rockies. He quickly found his way to the bench and returned to Ottawa by the end of the month, having hit only .194 in the big leagues. He did not pout upon returning to Ottawa however, as he thoroughly outplayed Bergeron when the two were in the Lynx line-up. Chavez ended up hitting .340 for the Lynx, earning the International League batting title and being named the Expos' minor league player of the year. He was called back to Montreal on September 3rd, and after a slow start, began to show the same sort of hitting prowess he had displayed in AAA. He had a four-hit game, including his first major league home run off Pedro Astacio, against the Mets on September 21st, the game coming in the middle of 16-game hitting streak. He ended the season with a .296 batting average for the Expos, along with a surprisingly solid .464 slugging percentage and seven assists in only 35 games in the outfield.

Endy Chavez easily beat out Bergeron for the Expos' regular centerfield job in spring training 2003 and began the year as the team's lead-off hitter. He started the season red hot, including twice earning doubles by bouncing a bunt over the opposing third baseman's head. However, his bat cooled off quickly, and by mid-June, he bottomed out in the .240's with a terrible on-base percentage of .279. He would fail to improve by much over the rest of the season, however, ending the year with a .251 average and a .294 on-base percentage. Expos' Manager Frank Robinson was at first reluctant to remove him from the lead-off spot, but eventually had no choice, putting Brad Wilkerson in his place, and sliding Chavez down to the seventh or eighth slot, where he drove in 47 runs and stole 18 bases. The Expos acquired two outfielders after the season, Carl Everett and Juan Rivera, putting Chavez's future with the team in doubt. In fact, he failed to make the team in spring training 2004, losing out to Bergeron who had a great spring after spending all of 2003 in AAA. However, Bergeron failed to hit big league pitching and then injured himself, opening the door for Chavez to rejoin the Expos in time for their last Montreal home opener on April 23rd. He had hit .344 for the Edmonton Trappers while biding his time in AAA. In six days, between May 19th and May 24th, he had two four-hit games. He hit very well for the Expos on his return, leading to Bergeron being traded away once he was healed. Chavez hit .277 in 138 games that year, raising his on-base percentage to .318 - better than in 2003, but still not enough for a lead-off hitter - and stealing a team-high 32 bases. On October 3rd in New York's Shea Stadium, he was the starting centerfielder for the Expos' last game ever, then grounded out to second baseman Jeff Keppinger with two outs in the 9th inning to constitute the last-ever Expos batter.

[edit] A back-up outfielder

With the Expos' move to Washington over the off-season, Chavez's position did not change much. In spring training 2005, he was criticized by manager Robinson for his unwillingness to change his approach at the plate in order to improve his on-base percentage, and as a result began the year in AAA for the second consecutive year. He was called up a short time later but only played seven games for the Nationals before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Marlon Byrd on May 14. He was used mainly as a defensive substitute by the Phillies, playing in 91 games but only coming to bat 107 times, with a lowly .215 batting average and only two stolen bases. He was released by the Phillies after the season but was signed by the Mets, where Minaya had become the General Manager. He played for Venezuela in the 2006 World Baseball Classic during spring training, then made the Mets' team as a back-up outfielder. Because of injuries to Cliff Floyd and Xavier Nady, he managed to find playing time in the Mets outfield and seemed to have recaptured his batting stroke. He ended up playing in 133 games that year, in all three outfield position, and hit a solid .306 with 22 doubles. He hit .375 in the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers but was limited to 5 for 27 as the Mets lost in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.

Chavez was injured for part of the 2007 season, being limited to 71 games and 150 at-bats, in which he put up a line of .287/.325/.380. He played more in 2008, coming to the plate 270 times in 133 games but saw his batting average fall to .267 and his OBP barely top .300. After the season, he was traded to the Seattle Mariners along with Aaron Heilman in a trade that brough J.J. Putz and Jeremy Reed to New York. He played against for Venezuela in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, splitting time in centerfield with Gregor Blanco. During the 2009 season, he played 54 games for the Mariners, hitting .273 with a pair of homers. His season ended on June 19th when he suffered a torn ligament in his right knee in a collision with teammate Yuniesky Betancourt in a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

After the 2009 season, Chavez signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers but missed all of 2010 because of injuries. It took him a while to get back into playing shape following the previous season's injury, then when he had been promoted to AAA Oklahoma City on July 8th, he suffered a right knee strain that ended his season. He made a strong comeback with the Rangers in 2011. He hit .301 in 83 games and displaced Julio Borbon in the role of defensive centerfielder for Texas. He returned to the postseason, but was used strictly in a back-up role, going 0 for 4 in the ALCS and 0 for 1 in 3 games as the Rangers lost the 2011 World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games. However, Texas was loaded with outfielders who could play centerfield, between Josh Hamilton, Borbon, Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin, so Chavez did not fit into longer term plans in spite of his good play. On December 18th, he signed a contract with the Baltimore Orioles, where he was to be used as Adam Jones' back-up in centerfield in 2012, hitting only .203 in 64 games. He moved to the Seattle Mariners in 2013 and bounced back, with a .267 batting average (but an OBP of only .290) in 97 games and 266 at-bats, his highest totals in both categories since 2008.

Endy Chavez tends to be disliked by sabermetricians because his low on-base percentage makes him a much less useful player than his tools would suggest. However, he has been an excellent hitter for average in the minor leagues, and is a better-than-average defensive outfielder with a good arm and excellent speed. If managers can resist the temptation to place him in the lead-off spot, he is a decent line-drive hitter who can also pinch hit, run and defend. Over his career, he has hit left-handers better than right-handers, something which increases his value as a pinch hitter.

His brother Ender Chavez is a minor league outfielder who has been Endy's teammate in Winter Ball in Venezuela.

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