Mariners' Chavez Keeps Hitting On Bigger Stage

SEATTLE — You know what they say about the numbers at high Class A High Desert: You can't really trust them because it's too hitter-friendly in arid Adelanto, Calif.

So the Mariners were wondering what to make of outfielder Johermyn Chavez's season for the Mavericks. He batted .315/.387/.577 with 32 home runs and 96 RBIs and made the California League's postseason all-star team.

Now that he's backing them up as a 21-year-old playing for Magallanes in the Venezuelan League, batting .311/.414/.486 with two home runs and five doubles in 74 at-bats, the organization sees reason for excitement.

"It's encouraging, because when you talk about High Desert being a good place to hit, the fact is that you still have to square the baseball up," farm director Pedro Grifol said. "It's really encouraging to see him go to Venezuela and put up numbers the way he has.

"It's a tough place to hit. There are hostile crowds used to winning, demanding winning, and a kid his age usually doesn't get a chance to play like he has. It's a tough place to hit, and he's doing it well."

Chavez, a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder who has the best outfield arm in the organization, was picked up from the Blue Jays (with righthander Brandon League) last offseason in the trade that sent righthander Brandon Morrow to Toronto. Chavez was a raw youngster at the time. He's still a youngster, but he's not nearly as raw.

Minor League hitting instructor Jose Castro and High Desert hitting coach Tommy Cruz have worked on getting a hitch out of Chavez's swing, and it's something Chavez has been able to apply with success in the California League as well as in Venezuela.

"He came in with a loop in his swing, and we've worked on that," Grifol said. "Now he can pull the ball the right way, and he does. That's not to say he doesn't have some holes, but he has developed a nice, level swing where the bat spends more time in the strike zone.

"This is a piece of the Morrow trade that doesn't get talked about much, but it wasn't just League for Morrow. Chavez is quietly putting up big numbers, and we're happy for him."


• Third baseman Matt Mangini, who batted .313/.352/.521 for Triple-A Tacoma and earned a September callup, has almost recovered from a pulled quad and could wind up playing some winter ball in Venezuela.

• Seattle hired former major leaguer Rick Waits, 58, as the organization's new minor league pitching coordinator, replacing Carl Willis, who finished the season as the big league pitching coach and will continue in that role.