Potential Player of Interest: Chris Young | The Process Report

Potential Player of Interest: Chris Young

Earlier in the week, we looked at Rajai Davis as a potential fit. Today, let’s consider another right-handed outfielder: Chris Young.

Technically, there’s no guarantee Young hits the open market, as the Athletics hold an $11 million option on him for next season. But, between the A’s budget and outfield depth, it’s tough to envision them retaining his services at that cost. Likewise, it’s doubtful another team would commit eight figures to him—meaning the most-likely outcome is for him to become a free agent once the market opens. Should that occur, Young would be an interesting option due to his skill set and likely cost.

With Arizona Young never lived up to his 2007 season, when he homered 32 times as a 23-year-old, but he solidified himself as a good defender with an intriguing power-speed blend offensively. Last winter, the Diamondbacks traded him to the Athletics as part of a three-team deal. Yet Young failed to gain traction at the plate in Oakland, despite being used against left-handed pitchers at a career-high rate. In retrospect, it’s easy to wonder if Young ever recovered from the separated shoulder he suffered early in 2012, which derailed an otherwise promising start to the season.

Even with the rough play since, Young possesses obvious marketable attributes. His raw power remains in tact, and last season he played good defense across the outfield. While he hasn’t stolen as many bases recently as he did in the past, the speed appears to still be there and he’s continued to take the extra base at a high clip. Young didn’t hit left-handed pitchers as well as usual in 2013, however, his track record against southpaws remains notable:

Young’s Performance by Opposing Pitcher, 2011-2013

Versus LHP .251 .351 .465
Versus RHP .212 .293 .387

There are undesirable aspects to Young’s game, too. He’s an inferior hitter against right-handed pitchers, as the numbers above support, and not someone you want playing versus good righties. What’s interesting about Young is that he’s labeled as a hitter with contact issues; that tag is generally reserved for batters who whiff or strike out a lot. Young does a fair amount of fanning—though last season’s near-25 percent mark was an outlier—but his contact rates tend to be within range of the league-average mark. The description is apt, just for other reasons.

Young has a long swing and at-times spotty pitch recognition skills—especially against same-side pitching; there are instances where he’s a noisy taker on poor pitches, and you can see his hands yearning to swing, as though he were guessing or cheating. He also makes some questionable swing decisions. Altogether, those traits lead to a lot of easy-to-field outs, including one of the highest infield fly rates in the league. Combine Young’s strikeouts and infield flies and he’s annually making automatic outs in 30-percent or more of his plate appearances—and that’s before factoring in his other weak contact.

It’s no surprise then that Young has struggled to maintain good averages and on-base percentages. He’s a player who must hit for power, walk, play good defense, and run the bases well to keep a job. Should he slip in a few of those areas, then he’s no longer a viable starter, and could soon slip from the league. Still, since Young is just 30 years old, it’s possible he has a bounce-back season in store. Given his likely asking price—a one-year deal worth a few million at most—it wouldn’t be stunning if the Rays gave him a chance to put his career back on track by using him in a specialized role.

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