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Voices from the Basement: Angel Berroa's Nightmare or The Endy Error


Daniel: Endy Chavez -- mistake or not by Allard Baird? The Royals had him, brought him up for a little while, watched him fail, then let him go. Now? Chavez is a productive player for the Montreal Expos, hitting .290 with 5 HR, 5 3B, and 19 SB, while playing a well-nigh spectacular CF for Montreal (or for San Juan, if you prefer). So, he's hitting for average, has great outfield range, is very good on the basepaths, and he's tough to strikeout -- only 26 SO in about 370 AB's. So, although no one really seems to talk about this much (preferring to lament over Carlos Beltran, Raul Ibanez, Jose Lima, and others), it would seem that Baird miscalculated with Chavez. He's currently 26 years old.

But, if we look a bit deeper, we see that Chavez is one of those rare breeds of ballplayer -- he hardly strikes out, but then, he hardly walks, either. He obviously has the physical tools and makeup to be a top-notch leadoff guy, but his OBP (.326) is hardly higher than his batting average. He hits for little power, with a SLG of just a skoche over .400, and is known to be impatient at the plate, not often seeing more than 4 pitches before his AB's come to a conclusion. His throwing arm is rated as fairly average.

So, I ask you, Kevin -- Endy Chavez, mistake by Allard Baird, or not?

Kevin: With the current state of the Royals' outfield, I suppose losing Endy Chavez to Detroit on waivers could be considered a mistake by Allard, but I think that's hindsight more than anything else. Yes, he's hitting .290, has shown flashes of good basestealing ability, and plays a pretty good centerfield, but that's where his usefulness ends. He really doesn't have any secondary skills; in 2,016 career minor-league at-bats, Endy's isolated power (SLG minus AVG) is .094, which is pretty horrible for a guy who's playing everyday for Montreal. I'd take Ruben Mateo or Abe Nunez over him any day of the week. Besides, the Royals got Chavez for nothing, selecting him in the Rule 5 draft in 2000, and then trading a career minor-leaguer to the Mets (fellow speedster Mike Curry) to obtain his full rights.

But I think the possible reason why Allard chose to let him go is very interesting. You made a very astute point that Chavez (did you know his middle name is DeJesus?) has all the physical abilities baseball people typically associate with a prototypical leadoff man. He's a high average hitter, extremely fast, and doesn't hit for much power at all. But as we've all come to realize over the last couple of seasons, Allard's mind tends to sway towards performance scouting, rather than how-much-he-looks-like-a-baseball-player scouting. Endy certainly falls more into the latter category, so I'm not at all surprised the R's were willing to cut him loose. Baird knows that players with Chavez's skillset are easily found.

Of course, just a year later, Allard traded Jermaine Dye for Neifi Perez. So maybe the end of the Endy Chavez Era didn't foreshadow Allard's strong free talent pickups.

Daniel: Well, I can't say that your response was a complete surprise, but at the same time, I find it a bit ironic that the player the Royals have to "replace" Carlos Beltran, is, in some aspects, the same kind of player that Chavez is, and was when he was with the ballclub. While I don't believe Chavez should have been retained, I'm wondering if Baird projected even this much success for him. While not a starting outfielder on a good team, he would find AB's on just about any club in one way or another, and I don't think there's much question that he is now a tradable commodity, if the Expos chose to do so. So, not a mistake by Baird in not keeping Chavez, but perhaps a small mistake in letting him go for nothing.

One of the reason why I bring this up is because another Royals prospect, Andres Blanco, is much the same ballplayer Chavez was while he was here, and the Royals may face a similar decision on whether to keep Blanco around. Like Chavez, Blanco is useful in some aspects: speedy, slap-hitter, with good defensive skills, but in a similar situation to Chavez, Blanco is being blocked by a ROY-type player who's had a sophomore slump. In 2000,Carlos Beltran had a slump in his 2nd year, as Angel Berroa has had a slump in his 2nd year.

Now obviously there are a couple of large differences: Berroa is older than Beltran was in their respective 1st and 2nd years, and Blanco is younger than Chavez was when the time came to make a decision on him. But, I think, the similarity in their situations is enough to warrant the comparison: where do you see Andres Blanco in 5 years? And, were the Royals not so terrible, would we even be having these kinds of discussions on marginal players?

Kevin: If the mystery player you speak of who's replacing Carlos Beltran is David DeJesus, I have to strongly disagree with you. DDJ has actually shown some sock in his bus leagues career, and his power took a pretty significant spike this year for Omaha:

.315/.400/.518

Sure, DeJesus may look like Endy Chavez right now, and to be fair, his major league rate stats look like Endy's as well. But unlike Chavez, David's a legitimate prospect, albeit one who'll probably never slug .500 in the major leagues. But his on-base skills are quite good, and he's hitting over .300 since he took over for Beltran on a full-time basis following the trade. Think another Johnny Damon with much less hair.

Moving right along, keeping Andres Blanco around is a no-brainer for the Royals, unless some other team becomes infatuated with his stellar defensive abilities and offers Allard a deal he can't refuse this winter. Offensively, Blanco is still very much a work in progress. His plate discipline, which was encouraging in his first three seasons, has disappeared in 2004, but perhaps that can be chalked up to a 20-year-old being overwhelmed by more experienced pitchers. Either way, there's still lots of time for him to become a useful offensive player, which is reason enough to keep him.

In addition, I don't know if you've seen the kid play shortstop, but he sure as hell can pick it over there. In fact, Blanco made a couple of eye-popping plays in last night's game against Seattle...plays I'm not sure Rey Sanchez, one of the finest shortstops of this era, could've made. I've never been put to the task, but I'd guess that finding good defensive shortstops is more difficult than finding good defensive outfielders like Endy Chavez.

Where do I see Andres Blanco in five years? If his plate discipline improves and he can find a way to get on base at least 35% of the time while hitting for league-average power, he should be the starting shortstop for the Kansas City Royals. Keep in mind that a position change for Berroa probably hasn't been ruled out by the organization. He certainly has the arm for third base, and with Joe Randa popping off at the mouth lately, anything's possible.

However, those are all "ifs." I'm guessing Blanco will add more power as he gets bigger and stronger, but whether the plate discipline comes back is a different story altogether. But even if his on-base ability doesn't reappear (and likely won't, given that the Royals' minor league instructors have a problem with their players not swinging at planes flying overhead), having one miniature Rey Sanchez hitting at the bottom of the order couldn't hold back the Greinke/Butler/Teahen Royals too much, right?
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