Minor league pitching! It's a crapshoot. You never know which stud #1 draft pick is going to rip his own pitching arm off and open-hand slap a bartender, or which 34th round pick is going to have a breakout season, get called up, and promptly walk five Astros before blowing out his arm like a truck tire hitting a railroad spike.
Basically, it's going to end in disappointment. Some pitchers are good, sure, but odds that everything lines up skill-wise, health-wise, head-wise, and luck-wise are always low. Prospects will break your heart, I read on the internet once.
So, without further descriptions of bodily atrocities, the Phillies have brought on Rafael Chaves to serve as Minor League Pitching Wrangler. Here he is looking displeased with some Mariners.
Chaves is a career minor leaguer who was an innocent undrafted free agent targeted by Jack McKeon's unflinching eye in 1986. McKeon, the Padres GM, reeled him in and stuck him in the pitching staff of the Single A Charleston Rainbows.
Chaves joined the Rainbows not long after their name had changed from the "Royals," a farm team of the Royals. Until 1988, he was part of a pitching staff that ruled the South Atlantic League (and included future fired Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers). As a 17-18 year old, Chaves threw 3.33 and 2.87 ERA seasons in 1986-87, largely in a relief role.
He left the Rainbows just as their golden age ended, and they went from 1989 to the turn of the century without a winning season. It's called the "Curse of Chaves," and many locals have lost their lives attempting various dark sorcery to correct it. At least they would if they had any guts or if they actually called it the "Curse of Chaves."
Chaves spent 1988 with the Riverside Red Waves of the Single A California League, alongside a 22-year-old Dave Hollins. There, Chaves threw 64.2 innings with a 2.37 ERA, 49 SO, and 28 BB.
He made the bump up to Double A with the Wichita Wranglers the next year as a 20-year-old, and stayed there through 1991. He'd throw 122 innings during that period, struggling against the higher class of hitting. Always good for around 40 earned runs a year, his 1990 was a standout, as he pitched in more innings at Double A than ever (47) and kept his walks under 20 (16) while pumping his K's through the roof (47). Then there was regression, and it was back down to Riverside, who were calling themselves the High Desert Mavericks now.
In 1993 Padres GM Joe McIlvane had had enough of Chaves, and in some form or another, Chaves left the club and wound up playing for the Double A Bowie Baysox, celebrating their inaugural season in the Orioles' farm system. McIlvane would quit his job in June and the Padres would lose 101 games.
Chaves was now a part of a minor league team trying to get its legs beneath it. The Baysox' name was the product of a vote, a vote that almost had them called the "Nationals." Chaves got to pitch in Memorial Stadium which the Orioles had just fled for Camden Yards, since the BaySox facility had yet to be finalized, built, or cared about. In fact, Bowie's intensely hideous winter weather kept them from building it the next year, too, but Chaves was long gone by then.
Chaves appeared in 45 games and kept that ERA just barely under 4.00 (with a crisp, even 1.500 WHIP). That was good enough for the O's to give him the call - the call to let him know that he was no longer welcome in their organization. He caught on with the Portland SeaDogs, the Double A affiliate of the weird new Florida Marlins franchise.
Once again, Chaves was joining a team that had not existed the previous season. He was joined by Charles Johnson, Chris Hammond, and even Gary Sheffield during a rehab appearance. Sadly, Chaves threw only 16 innings, giving up 17 H, 13 BB, and 10 SO.
Back down to Single A he went in 1995, this time with his fourth and final club, the Pirates. At 26 now, Chaves was likely not feeling super confident being demoted with another new team. Nevertheless, it only took 8.2 IP and 2 ER with the Augusta Green Jackets to convince brass he was ready for the High A Lynchburg Hillcats. He brought his SO/W back up to 3.46 and stopped giving up all the runs, giving him hope for the future.
That future ended not long after, when he was 28. In 1995 with the Double A Carolina Mudcats, Chaves threw 26.1 innings and gave up 21 H and 4 ER. The next season, he gave up 7 ER, 12 H, and 4 BB in 7.1 IP. Having played in the minors since before he could legally vote, Chaves was now pushing 30, and had reached the end of his line.
The world of coaching opened up to him, and he has served as the Mariners pitching coach (2006-07), as well as the following five years as "special assistant of player personnel" with the Dodgers. Zolecki cited Phillies assistant GM Benny Looper's long connection with the Mariners as the relationship that brought Chaves into Philly today.
The years from 1998-2004, not mentioned here, are formally known as "The Lost Years," when Chaves is said to have ridden the rails of the American Midwest, teaching hobos how to throw a curveball, and then shoving them out of moving trains and stealing their beans.
Chaves was one of the initial candidates for Bob McClure's job, so the Phillies have been interested for some time now. There may not be a guy with more front line experience with minor league pitching, and if we know the Phillies, then this was merely the latest in a line of fantastic decisions.