In 2001, Chavez was drafted by the Cubs in the 39th round, following his senior year at A.B. Miller High School in Fontana, California. But instead of turning pro, though, he decided to pitch at Riverside Community College in California.
In 2002, the Rangers chose him in the 42d round as a draft-and-follow (see Transactions below).
Not being very highly regarded made Jesse strive that much harder to get to the Majors. "Being drafted that low has given me a lot of motivation," Chavez said. "It's really fueled me, made me want to prove everyone wrong. It's given me a burning desire to make it to the Major Leagues and prove that I'm good enough. The scouts always told me I was too small to pitch in the Majors, and that's why I didn't get drafted until so late. I'm going to get the opportunity to prove everyone wrong, though, and that's all I've ever wanted." (John Perrotto-Baseball America-2/09/2007)
In 2007, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Jesse as 24th-best prospect in the Pirates' organization.
Jesse and Crystal had no idea what they were in for when they first met during Chavez's senior year in Spanish class at A.B. Miller High School in Fontana, California, where they were both star athletes.
"I played softball, and I was giving out my softball pictures one day," Crystal recalled. "He asked for one. That was it. One day, we didn't talk to one another, and the next we're dating. Thirteen years later, here we are," she said in 2014.
Adulthood came quickly. While Chavez was in his second of two years at Riverside Community College, the couple learned Crystal was pregnant with their first daughter, Criste.
It was 2002, and the Rangers had just drafted Jesse in the 42nd round. By the time he reported to his first Spring Training the following year, Criste had arrived, and they had moved into their first home, bought with the help of Chavez's signing bonus.
"I had to grow up really fast," Chavez said. "Luckily, I was always out there figuring things out on my own, being street smart without actually living in the streets, because my parents wouldn't allow that. I paid attention in life."
Crystal is just as resourceful and even more independent. Her father worked at the docks in Long Beach, and he helped her get a part-time job there piloting the giant tractors that load and unload shipping containers. It meant commuting about a hundred miles each way from their home in Victorville.
Crystal focused on one goal: to work enough hours to graduate to a full-time position, which would grant her healthcare coverage, a better salary, a flexible schedule and a pension. In other words, she'd get security for the family.
"I'd be home in the offseason and wouldn't see her maybe five or six days out of the week," Jesse recalled. "Half the time, she'd get snowed out because of the high elevation. She'd have to stay in our apartment down in San Pedro."
And she didn't always get work. "I didn't always get a (job), but I had to try," she said. "So I would have to be there at 6:30 in the morning. If I didn't get work, I had to go home and return at 5:30 that evening to try again."
Chavez invested his $800 a month salary into rent, food, and other expenses. Crystal's salary paid the mortgage, the car payments and the rest of the bills. Those early years were tense, but they never argued. If anything, the couple made light of their situation.
Now, Crystal doesn't really have to work. But she does, saying, "It's not your average day-to-day job. We work with different people all the time. We're not cooped up in an office all day. We're outside in the fresh air, and I can pick my own schedule now." (Chris Gigley-July 2014-Athletics Magazine)
To say Chavez is skinny is a bit of an understatement. Listed at 6-feet-2, and 160 pounds, Jesse is the first to admit that may be a little generous.
It's not genetics. Jesse says his Dad is 6-feet-3 and 260 pounds, and his Mom is 5-feet-6 inches and athletically fit.
"I think it's just that I'm active. I can't sit still," Chavez said.
It is true. In the clubhouse before games, he floats from one conversation to another like an anxious politician on election day. During games, he gets up, sits down, walks around and repeats the sequence over and over in the dugout. He even moves around between innings of his starts.
"I've never gotten tired in my career, even when I had my heaviest workload back in 2009," Chavez said. "I think the fact that I keep active and that I'm constantly and staying on a program helps me not break down."
During the offseason, Jesse plays golf and hangs out with his family. But he also has a somewhat unusual hobby: antiques!
It all starts with his house, which according to Chavez, requires a lot of upkeep because of its age.
"It's 100 years old," Chavez said. "I'm into that history/antique type of thing—random updates, whatever it needs."
His interest in his home's history led him to fill it with repurposed furniture.
"Mostly, we get new stuff and make it distressed, or we find old stuff and incorporate it into the house," Chavez said.
Perhaps no one had a greater influence on an impressionable Kendall Graveman during his trying rookie season of 2015 than Jesse, the unassuming vet. Chavez has spent much of his 11 Major League seasons pitching for a job. He keeps getting one, but a second later is fighting to keep it. The cycle continues. It has taken him to eight different teams.
"I talk about it a lot, the people that really influence me, is just the mentality of attack, attack, attack," Graveman said. "That 'never back down, never give in' mentality. You look at Jesse, not the biggest guy in the world, but when he's out there, you can tell within his demeanor and his confidence that he has no fear.
"Location is his biggest thing, and he locates a lot. That was his big thing. He believed that if he located, he didn't care who was standing in the box. There were times when he started, there were times when he relieved, and he didn't really carry it on his shoulder and on his sleeve. I know that was tough for him, not ever knowing his role, but at the end of the day, he wanted to do whatever was going to help the team win, and I think that's why he keeps getting jobs."
Graveman stumbled out of the gates in 2015; he was knocked around and off the roster within a month. He was packing up his locker in Oakland, readying for the journey to Triple-A Nashville, when Chavez came over.
"He said, 'You're going to have a great career,'" Graveman said. "I remember him sitting down and telling me, 'Don't let this affect the rest of your career.' He saw the way I was. I wasn't pitching with a lot of confidence, and here was this guy, we had both been fighting for a starting job in Spring Training, and he got moved to the bullpen, but he still wanted to help me get better. That's one of his greatest qualities."
Graveman was back a month later and better than ever. "When he came back the second time was when I had a really good talk with him," Chavez said. "I just tried instilling in him to keep it simple, keep it calm, keep it quiet. Just utilize the strike zone with your movement. It's tough to elevate down, and the only guy who can hit it down is Mike Trout. When in doubt, throw it over the plate and down. With your movement, trust it."
Chavez was drawn to Graveman before ever seeing him throw a pitch. "When he got traded to Oakland from Toronto," Chavez said, "he wrote thank-you notes to all of Toronto's coaches. That told me right there, he'll pay attention, he'll be good."
Even now, Graveman passes along handwritten thank-you letters to members of the coaching and clubhouse staffs at the end of every season. Practicing gratitude comes naturally for the right-hander, which is why he hopes to do for younger pitchers what Chavez did for him.
"Jesse just kind of invested in my life, not only on the field but off the field, and took care of me, bought dinners and did things like that," Graveman said. "For me, that goes a long way, and I want to pass what he offered me down to some of these guys here today." (Lee - mlb.com - 4/02/2018)
June 2002: The Rangers chose Jesse as a draft-and-follow in the 42d round, out of Riverside C.C. in California.
May 21, 2003: The Rangers signed Chavez as a draft-and-follow from the 2002 draft. "It's hats off to [former Rangers scout] Jimmy Lentine and [Rangers southern California scout] Steve Flores," Rangers assistant GM Grady Fuson said. "They did a great job in finding and evaluating this kid. The problem is he's only about 160 pounds. We may have to double his meal money."
July 31, 2006: The Pirates sent P Kip Wells to the Rangers, acquiring Chavez.
November 3, 2009: The Rays sent 2B Akinori Iwamura to the Pirates, acquiring Chavez.
December 10, 2009: The Braves sent RHP Rafael Soriano to the Rays, acquring Jesse.
July 31, 2010: The Royals sent OF Rick Ankiel and P Kyle Farnsworth to the Braves; acquiring Chavez, P Tim Collins, and OF Gregor Blanco.
October 21, 2011: The Blue Jays claimed Chavez off waivers from the Royals.
August 24, 2012: The A's sent cash to the Blue Jays, acquiring Jesse from the Blue Jays.
November 20, 2015: The Athletics traded RHP Jesse Chavez to the Blue Jays for RHP Liam Hendriks.
February 6, 2016: Chavez won his arbitration case against the Blue Jays with a one-year deal for $4 million.
August 1, 2016: The Blue Jays traded Chavez and cash to the Dodgers for RHP Mike Bolsinger.
November 3, 2016: Chavez chose free agency.
November 11, 2016: The Angels signed free agent Chavez to a one-year contract worth $5.75 million, plus an additional $3 million in performance bonuses.
November 2, 2017: Jesse chose free agency.
February 22, 2018: The Rangers signed Chavez to a minor league deal.
July 19, 2018: The Cubs acquired Jesse from the Rangers for Minor League lefthander Tyler Thomas.
October 29, 2018: Jesse chose free agency.
November 27, 2018: The Rangers signed Chavez to a two-year contract for $8 million.
Oct 28, 2020: RHP Jesse Chavez elected free agency.
February 26, 2021: Chavez signed a minor league contract with the Angels organization, which included an invitation to Spring Training.
March 25, 2017: The Angels released Chavez.
- April 20, 2021: The Braves signed Chavez to a minor league contract.
|Birth City:||Victorville, CA|
|Draft:||Rangers #42 - 2002 - Out of Riverside C.C. (CA)|
- Jesse has a 91-96 mph FASTBALL, and an 89-93 mph 2-seam SINKER, along with an 89-92 mph CUTTER. Chavez has a big-breaking 75-78 mph CURVEBALL that retires righthanded hitters, a hard 83-86 mph SLIDER, and an effective 84-87 mph CHANGEUP that enables him to get lefthanded batters out.
2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 28.4% of the time; Sinker 3.3% of the time; Change 9.5%; Slider 7.5%; Curve 8.1%; and Cutter 43.1% of the time.
2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 21.2% of the time; Sinker 17.6% of the time; Change 14.8%; Slider 7.7%; Curve 8.5%; and Cutter 23.2% of the time.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 13.8% of the time; his Sinker 28.3%; Change 6.4%; Slider 11.9%; Curve less than 1%; Cutter 26% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 93.2 mph, Sinker 93.4, Changeup 87.1, Slider 85.6, Curve 79.2, and Cutter 91.8 mph.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 6.5% of the time; his Sinker 38.4%; Change 9.4%; Slider 19.6%; Curve 2.8%; and Cutter 36.8% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 91.8 mph, Sinker 91.4, Changeup 85.4, Slider 86.9, Curve 83.5, and Cutter 88.9 mph.
2020 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 3.4% of the time; his Sinker 43.7%; Change 4.6%; Slider 16%; and Cutter 32.3% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 91.1 mph, Sinker 91.6, Changeup 85.6, Slider 84.5, and Cutter 89.8 mph.
- He has trouble consistently throwing strikes. He throws so hard, getting a lot behind his pitches even though he is a thin guy.
- Chavez is a little righthander with good competitiveness.
- In 2009, Jesse led all NL rookies in appearances.
In 2010, with the help of Royals pitching coach Bob McClure, Chavez changed his delivery to almost sidearm. Jesse's overhand motion reminded McClure of a mechanical pitching machine.
"To me, he was like an 'Iron Mike,' he was just too easy to see," McClure said. "Normal motion, easy to see and straight as a string."
McClure approached Chavez: "I said, 'Well, you've got a 5.50 ERA in the big leagues total and you're a bullpen guy. A bullpen guy should have between a 2.00 and a 3.00 ERA. So it's not working out very well. Would you be opposed to dropping down and throwing sidearm?'"
Not at all, Chavez said, and they experimented with lower motions. They finally settled on a low three-quarters delivery, not strictly sidearm, that gave his pitches movement and sink. Chavez took to it immediately.
"Some guys can't even do that," McClure said. "Remember Jimmy Gobble? It took him three months to learn to throw a ball sidearm. Jesse did it in one day."
- There must be times when Chavez simply can't believe how it has all worked out. Or at least plenty of times he doubted he'd ever get the chance to do the things he has done in 2014.
"It's the opportunity I'm happy about," he says. "All you can ask for is a chance."
Chavez is a reminder of many things. First, it's risky business giving up on someone with his heart and desire, and that might be the toughest thing to measure.
"His preparation is flawless," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He leaves no stones unturned. He knows what the strength and weakness of the hitter are. He knows what his strengths and weaknesses are."
For that, Chavez thanks Melvin.
"The opportunity he gave me in Spring Training, that was all I needed," said Jesse. "He showed so much confidence in me. It was up to me to instill enough confidence in him to leave me out there in tough situations."
The A's deserve credit on so many levels for seeing something in Chavez five other organizations didn't. He's a tribute to Oakland GM Billy Beane and his incredible ability to identify talent that others can't.
Chavez is also a tribute to Melvin and A's pitching coach Curt Young. They let him know early on that they believed in him and would give him every chance to grow and to polish his game.
When the A's purchased Chavez's contract from the Blue Jays on August 24, 2012, no eyebrows were raised. He'd just turned 29 years old, and in 62 big league appearances spread over five seasons, he had a 5.99 ERA. He'd been traded four times and waived once.
"We just thought he was a guy who had never really gotten a chance," Beane said. "We allowed him to get his feet wet out of the bullpen last season, and then gave him a chance to win a job in the rotation in Spring Training."
"I don't like leaving the fielders on their heels," Chavez said. "That's the big thing. Even if I go ball-one, ball-two, at least I'm working at a good pace. If you're working slowly, you put them back on their heels, and a play they normally make becomes tougher."
He'll throw four pitches at any time in the count, but it's the development of a cutter that has completed his arsenal. Ah yes, the Mariano Rivera pitch.
Chavez threw it 38 percent of the time during the first half of the 2014 season. (Only Dodger Dan Haren had thrown a higher percentage, according to Fangraphs.com.)
"The cutter is something I've always messed with," he said. "I just couldn't get it the way I wanted it. I scratched it and got away from it instead of just fully committing to it. You have ups and downs for a reason, and probably my biggest was not committing to that pitch."
And now that he has shown he can throw it, it improves the value of his pitchability. (Richard Justice MLB.com, 6/21/2014)
- June 12, 2019: Jesse's moustache was gone almost as soon as his 22.2-inning scoreless streak had ended.
He shaved the recognizable facial hair, which he began growing during his impressive stretch of pitching, shortly after he walked consecutive batters in the bottom of the ninth, including a bases-loaded free pass to Mookie Betts to seal the Rangers' 4-3 walk-off loss at Fenway Park.
Chavez explained the way he broke the streak wasn’t reflective of who he is as a pitcher, and so the moustache was no longer a fit. “I was just missing by a little bit,” Chavez said. “I don’t know, I think I was trying to be too fine in that situation, where I don’t know why I should. Trust myself and let it play. Just let them put the ball on the ground and let the defense do their work. Today was the day I wasn’t able to do it in a situation where we needed it, for sure.” (Camerato - mlb.com)
As of the start of the 2021 season, Chavez has a career record of 41-58 with 4.52 ERA, having allowed 143 home runs and 965 hits in 933 innings.
July 21-30, 2012: Chavez was on the D.L.
September 16, 2015: Chavez was placed on the 60-day DL and will miss the rest of the season because of a non-displaced rib fracture.
August 13-November 4, 2019: Jesse was on the IL with right posterior elbow impingement.
September 9, 2019: Jesse underwent surgery to have loose bodies removed from his right elbow. He will need eight weeks of recovery before he begins throwing again, but he should be ready for Spring Training in 2020.
Aug 23-Sept 6, 2020: Jesse was on the IL with a left great toe sprain.