Eric Chavez of the Oakland Athletics hits a sacrifice RBI in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim on April 9, 2010. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Career Profile: Eric Chavez
Per frequent reader request, here is a Career Profile for Eric Chavez.
Eric Chavez was drafted by Oakland in the first round in 1996, from high school in San Diego, California. The 10th overall pick in the draft, he was rated as the best high school hitter available in the class by most experts, projecting as a .300 hitter with power. He signed too late to play in '96. I didn't give letter grades to new draftees back then: the 1997 book I wrote for STATS was only my second book. Nowadays I would give a similar player a Grade B or B+, depending on the exact scouting reports.
Oakland assigned him to Visalia in the California League for '97, aggressive posting for a 19-year-old. He did just fine, hitting .271/.321/.444 with 30 doubles, 18 homers, 100 RBI, 37 walks, and 91 strikeouts in 520 at-bats. His plate discipline needed a bit of work, but considering the age/competition level, it was an impressive year. He also drew praise for his defense at third base, being named Best Defensive Third Baseman in the league by Baseball America. I gave him a Grade A- in the 1998 book and ranked him as the Number 13 hitting prospect in the game.
Chavez was sent to Double-A Huntsville to begin 1998. He hit .328/.402/.612 in 88 games, showing dramatically improved plate discipline. Promoted to Triple-A Edmonton, he remained very hot with a .325/.364/.588 mark. He combined to hit 45 doubles and 33 homers between the two levels, with 54 walks and 93 strikeouts in 529 at-bats. Promoted to Oakland late in the year, he hit .311/.354/.444 in 16 games, virtually guaranteeing himself a starting job in '99. I gave him a Grade A in the '99 book and rated him the Number Two prospect in baseball behind J.D. Drew.
Chavez hit .247/.333/.427 in 115 games for Oakland in '99, but that was credible given his age. You know the rest of his career from that point. Although he never developed into the .300 hitter scouts originally expected, he was steadily productive in his mid-20s. He began to fade at age 28 in 2006, back and neck injuries becoming an increasing problem. He hasn't played more than 90 games since 2006 and while he recently signed a free agent contract with the Yankees, it is hard to see him regaining anything close to his former status.
Chavez hit .267/.343/.478 in his career, with 230 homers, 565 walks, and 922 strikeouts in 4783 at-bats, OPS+ 115. He won six Gold Gloves and posted a career WAR of 32.0, with peak WAR values of 5.5 in 2001 and 5.5 in 2004.
Most Similar Players by SIM SCORE: Dean Palmer, Jermaine Dye, Torii Hunter, Danny Tartabull, Frank Thomas from the 1950s, Bobby Thomson, Gary Gaetti, Jesse Barfield, Howard Johnson, and Ron Gant. The Dye and Hunter comps don't make much sense given the position difference.
Overall, Chavez was a very, very good player, excellent at times, whose career was shortened by injuries. He was a terror in his second full minor league season. His MLEs that year showed him as a .280 hitter with 20+ homer power, and that is basically what he became until the injuries struck.