Mike Olt’s Arrival May End The Michael Young Era

As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, the Rangers have summoned third base prospect Mike Olt from Double-A, and he’ll be joining the team in Texas in time for tonight’s game against the Angels. With Adrian Beltre manning the hot corner, though, third base is not in his immediate future, and the Rangers certainly aren’t calling Olt up to sit on the bench. Instead, his arrival signifies the likely end of the Michael Young Era in Texas. At least, the era where Young played any kind of meaningful role on the team.

Young’s been a staple in Texas since 2001, and contributed at least +2.5 WAR in every season since 2003. While there’s a pretty good case that he got overrated by the mainstream media, it was more of them making too much out of a good player rather than Young simply not being an actual contributor. He wasn’t a perfect player, but he was a durable +3 win player who the team could rely on, and that kind of consistent production has a lot of value.

However, at age 35, Young appears to have hit a wall. After accumulating at least 50 extra base hits in eight of the last nine years, Young has just 22 this season, and all three of his home runs came in the first five weeks of the season. Since May 7th — the last time he hit a ball over the fence — Young is batting just .247/.275/.306, and just 14 of his 71 hits have gone for extra bases. That’s 305 plate appearances over 72 games without a home run. Exactly five years ago — beginning on May 8th, 2007 — Young had a 77 game stretch without hitting a home run, but he hit .330 with 21 doubles during the stretch, so he was productive even without the long ball.

The Rangers have patiently waited for him to come out of his slump. Now, three months into it, they can’t wait any longer. They have to accept that Michael Young, Good Hitter may be gone forever. And, with Mike Olt offering the possibility of some much needed power at the 1B/DH positions that Young has manned this season, making the change is absolutely the right move.

Now, Olt comes with some warts of his own. He was striking out in 25% of his plate appearances as a 23-year-old in Double-A, and there are questions about how much contact he’s going to make in the big leagues. A lot of Olt’s success in the minors came from drawing walks (16.4% BB% last year, 14.5% this year), and minor league walk rates don’t always translate to the big leagues, especially if opposing pitchers find an area in the strike zone that they can exploit. However, Olt has big time power and he drives the ball to all fields, so the power should play from day one, especially in a park like Texas. With that kind of thump, he can strike out a lot and still be a significant upgrade over Michael Young.

Using the fantastic new leaderboard filters, I queried out every qualified hitter in baseball this year with a K% of 25% or higher and an ISO of .200 or higher. Here’s the list:

Jason Kubel, 136 wRC+
Curtis Granderson, 126 wRC+
Adam Dunn, 126 wRC+
Corey Hart, 124 wRC+
Mike Napoli, 113 wRC+
Pedro Alvarez, 109 wRC+
Chris Davis, 101 wRC+
Ike Davis, 89 wRC+

By and large, these guys are productive hitters, though their contact rates (and in most cases, lack of defensive value) keep them from being true stars. Seven of the eight are producing at an above average rate and the one who isn’t has a .230 BABIP. Even if Olt’s contact issues prove as severe as Alvarez’s, that’s still a quality hitter, and one who can instantly provide some life to a struggling Rangers offense.

While Young is still highly regarded in some circles for his personality and leadership qualities, a team with World Series aspirations simply can’t carry him as an everyday player anymore. ZIPS projects a .315 wOBA going forward, which is a substantial improvement over what he’s given them in the first half of the year but still below replacement level for a guy who only contributes at the plate.

Maybe Young does still have something left in the tank, and he’ll find his power stroke again at some point. The Rangers should hope that’s true since they’re still on the hook to pay him $16 million in 2013, but they can’t afford to let those hopes interfere with their pursuit of a championship this year. Young’s lack of production has forced the Rangers hand, and with Olt tearing up the Double-A, the team simply has to make this switch. If Olt hits, it’s hard to see Young ever getting a regular job back in Texas.

While he was a terrific contributor for the past decade, the Rangers have to move on, and in calling up Mike Olt, they apparently have come to the same conclusion. He can still help them as a bat off the bench if he’s willing to accept that role, but the days of Young being a fixture of the Rangers line-up appear to be over.

Mike Newman shot some video of Olt in spring training, so you can see his swing for yourself below.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Brian
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Brian
4 years 22 days ago

Dave, Is Michael Young droppable in a 10 team roto and 12 team h2h? In my 10 team roto, Young has first base, second base, and third base eligibility while my 12 team h2h Young has only first and third. In my 10 team roto I was thinking of dropping Young for either Brandon Morrow or Matt Joyce because I really need help with pitching and I think Joyce is a solid player. If not, I was also thinking about dropping Ian Desmond for either Morrow or Joyce because Desmond will be out till late August. As for my 12 team h2h, I’m inclined to keep Young since there are no better options or should I drop Young for Mike Olt in my 12 team h2h? Thanks!

BX
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BX
4 years 22 days ago

Dave Cameron openly says in like every chat that he’s not a fantasy guy, so I’d assume your question won’t get answered.

Justin
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Justin
4 years 22 days ago

“I’m not a fantasy guy”

– Dave Cameron

heychuck
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heychuck
4 years 22 days ago

Huh, I didn’t know this was a fantasy baseball article.

walt526
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walt526
4 years 22 days ago

Get a life.

Sleight of Hand Pro
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Sleight of Hand Pro
4 years 22 days ago

i hate promting this type of response, but i couldnt help but chuckle.

Brian
Guest
Brian
4 years 22 days ago

Or any of you guys other than Dave? Possible to give me any advice?

jaywrong
Member
jaywrong
4 years 22 days ago

I’d drop for Morrow if you need pitching.

ArodinmyPujols
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ArodinmyPujols
4 years 22 days ago

read the article again, then ponder his stats for a while, then read the title of the article, then ask the guy in first place if he wants Mr Young, then ask the guy in last place if he wants Mr Young … for free, if he accepts, then laugh at him simultaneously while sending him the link to this article.

part of me hopes you are the team in last place.

dnc
Guest
dnc
4 years 21 days ago

I’ll bite – I’d drop him. He has no value at this point. If you can find a sucker to trade for him you do it, no matter the return, but that seems highly unlikely.

Matt NW
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Matt NW
4 years 22 days ago

Wanting other people to make your fantasy baseball decisions for you is humiliating.

Brian
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Brian
4 years 21 days ago

Am I banned from posting future comments or questions if you guys continue to “vote -1” on my posts?

Daniel
Member
Daniel
4 years 21 days ago

Maybe not banned, Brian, but I’d advise against it.

Brian
Guest
Brian
4 years 21 days ago

Guys, I’m sorry. I had no idea about there being a rule against posting fantasy baseball questions on this site. Please forgive me.

dnc
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dnc
4 years 21 days ago

Brian, for future reference this is the place to go for fantasy advice around here: http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/

Also, you’re not going to get banned or blocked from posting for accumulating too many (-1)’s

Brazen Reader
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Brazen Reader
4 years 21 days ago

You’re looking for razzball.com

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC
4 years 22 days ago

Never mind his grit, Michael Young has more hits this year than this Mike Olt guy has in Double A. What are you thinking, Texas?

Stormin' Norman
Guest
Stormin' Norman
4 years 22 days ago

Not sure if serious. . .

jscape2000
Guest
4 years 22 days ago

6 fewer hits in 5 fewer games.
I root for sarcasm over dumb, every day.

Kazinski
Guest
Kazinski
4 years 22 days ago

I hope its sarcasm. Olt has 61 BB to Young’s 18, those shouldn’t count against Olt. Its hard to get as rack up as many hits as Young has had in his career with out sacrificing quite a few BB in the process. Not many .300 hitters are going to get more than 200 hits with a walk rate > 10%.

Tim
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Tim
4 years 22 days ago

He has posted a WAR of less than 2.9 3 times since 03.

YanksFanInBeantown
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YanksFanInBeantown
4 years 22 days ago

That is true.

I’m not sure what your comment has to do with the article, however.

Justin
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Justin
4 years 22 days ago

Article said 2.9 before and was edited.

chri521
Member
4 years 22 days ago

Michael Young, Frenchy, Mike Nickeas should all be put on the same team to create the “best clubhouse chemistry” team ever.

Mike Sweeney
Guest
Mike Sweeney
4 years 22 days ago

Ooh! Ooh! Can I be the manager?!! Please please pleeeeeeease?!!

Sean
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Sean
4 years 21 days ago

Of course not…Mike Sweeney has that position locked down.

J6takish
Guest
J6takish
4 years 22 days ago

Does he get Posaded next year? Or does he just get released? Texas has shown to be a very relentless organization when it comes to doing what is best for the team. If he doesnt perform, I think he’s gone despite being the face of the franchise

Choo
Member
4 years 22 days ago

Tip ‘o the cap to the Rangers for having the guts to send Michael Young to the bench. It’s the right move, but it’s not a move every GM/Owner/Mgr would be willing to make.

Charlie Manuel
Guest
Charlie Manuel
4 years 22 days ago

I know that I certainly would not have made this move! How disgraceful to treat your veteran players this way! Especially when they have grit!

Dave S
Guest
Dave S
4 years 22 days ago

Uncle Charlie doesn’t exactly have any Mike Olt’s wasting away on the farm.

Brian
Guest
Brian
4 years 21 days ago

Not currently, but he was pretty adamant about not playing Dom Brown over Raul -1.3WAR Ibanez.

Oliver
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Oliver
4 years 22 days ago

How would you guys describe his swing based on that video? Compact? Short? It certainly looks like he’s taking big cuts, but his body seems really, I dunno, focused. Not much of a step, his hips didn’t seem to open much. I also don’t know squat about swings.

John
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John
4 years 22 days ago

I bet Young still plays.

higuys
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higuys
4 years 21 days ago

He always seems to find a lot of playing time so I wouldn’t be surprised either.

Jon L.
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Jon L.
4 years 21 days ago

I bet Young is in the lineup every time the Rangers face a lefty. Even this year, he’s batting .322 against lefties, and it doesn’t take a great batting eye or a lot of pop to make .322 worthwhile. Moreland doesn’t generally play against lefties, so there’ll be room at either first or DH. (Napoli, for some mysterious reason, has been worthless against lefties this year.)

Peter
Guest
Peter
4 years 18 days ago

I bet not because Olt absolutely crushes lefties. If he’s going to be successful it’s going to be primarily against lefties, so it’s very unlikely they won’t play him against lefties.

They might not play him against righties. But Young has not been good against righties. So it’s difficult to see a reason to play him much unless Olt struggles.

Juan Chapa
Guest
4 years 22 days ago

The goal is to win. If a player is not producing at the major league
team, and someone is tearing it up in the minors, it forces your
hand (especially in a pennant race, where the Angels keep
improving themselves). However, its a double edged sword.
What to do if Olt flops? They probably need to ease Olt in,
as in the number 9th (or 8th) spot in the batting order, and
maybe part time. Ryne Sanberg went 25 or 30 at bats
before he got his first major league hit, and he ended up
in hall of fame.

Ben
Guest
Ben
4 years 20 days ago

“Ryne Sanberg went 25 or 30 at bats
before he got his first major league hit, and he ended up
in hall of fame.”

You may be thinking of Robin Ventura…

Ben
Guest
Ben
4 years 20 days ago

Except for the HOF part, obviously.

Rich W
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Rich W
4 years 18 days ago

I wish the Blue Jays had that problem. They had to call up half their AAA team just to fill out a lineup card.

odbsol
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odbsol
4 years 22 days ago

Olt starting at 1B tonight so maybe Moreland is the odd man out.

ralph
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ralph
4 years 22 days ago

Kinsler at DH, Young at 2B, Soto at C. It’s against CJ Wilson, so it’s understandable that Moreland is sitting. It’s not quite as understandable that Young is starting over Napoli.

BookWorm
Guest
BookWorm
4 years 22 days ago

With Olt getting called up by the Rangers and Dan Straily (rumored to be) not far behind for the A’s, I guess the “When is this guy going to get his chance?” watch goes back to Will Meyers in the KC system.

Hurtlockertwo
Guest
Hurtlockertwo
4 years 22 days ago

I’m not getting this “stick a fork in Young” article?? The guy has never been a power hitter (the most HR’s he hit in one year has been 24) so why is anyone surprised that he isn’t hitting for power? Geez the guy hit .338 last year and drove in over 100 runs, did he just hit the AARP cycle overnight? Adam Dunn sucked badly last year and amazingly he was an all star this year, go figure.

Brian
Guest
Brian
4 years 21 days ago

You must be new here

Just Jim
Guest
Just Jim
4 years 22 days ago

Dispite the opinion that the Rangers should move on from Michael Young, Clubs don’t always do what’s best in situations like this. Take Cincinatti for example. Todd Frazier has a good bat and is an above average defender, and yet Dusty Baker continues to roll out Scott Rolen on a daily basis. It took a Joey Votto injury for Frazier to finally get his shot, but if it wasn’t for that he would still be fighting for at bats.

Now I’m not saying Frazier is in the same league with Olt, but he is in the same situation. He has an aging star in front of him that the team doesn’t want to pull out. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told ESPN.com that Olt will give manager Ron Washington a deeper bench and more options with his lineups. If Olt doesn’t hit the ground running and make the most of every at bat he gets (aka Allen Craig), he may have to wait until next year before he gets a real shot.

Ruggiano's Pizza
Guest
Ruggiano's Pizza
4 years 21 days ago

Dusty Baker sucks the sweat off a dead man’s balls …

chuckb
Member
chuckb
4 years 20 days ago

I guess it’s awfully hot in that casket. It must be since I can’t imagine that guy is getting much of a workout.

Ousy
Guest
Ousy
4 years 21 days ago

There’s a sample selection bias – most hitters with such a high K% are bad and won’t be given enough at bats to be considered qualified. Only those with a high k% that are really good will be given enough playing time.

MSBL
Guest
MSBL
4 years 21 days ago

I wish his name was “Old” instead of “Olt.” Michael Young replaced by Michael Old? Perfect irony.

Jeff Mathis does Steroids
Guest
Jeff Mathis does Steroids
4 years 21 days ago

And of course as soon as Olt gets called up Wash plays Young at 2nd base and makes Kinsler DH for the day.

It won’t mark the end of the Michael Young era. Not this year at least. Not as long as Ron Washington is the Rangers’ manager.

Washington loves Young too much. It took him 90 games to move him from the 5th spot in the order to the 6th spot. He never gives him an off day (3rd on the team in PAs despite usually hitting 5th), and when he does Young gets to CHOOSE when that day will be. He routinely makes Beltre/Kinsler/Andrus DH so that Rangers fans get to see awful defense, and he makes Young move UP in the order on those days so that he hits where they hit too!

Mike Olt being called up SHOULD mark the end of the Michael Young era. Fans and media have been calling for it, and Jon Daniels delivered last night. But, IMO, the simple truth of the matter is that Ron Washington will not let his guy ride the bench. I would be shocked if Young sees any signifigant decrease in playing time. Between 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, and DH, Ron Washington will find a way to give the LVP of the national league his playing time. Mark my words.

Jeff Mathis does Steroids
Guest
Jeff Mathis does Steroids
4 years 21 days ago

* LVP of the American league. But then again, if there was a player that could find a way to win Least Valuable Player of both leagues, it would be Michael Young.

Jeff Mathis does Steroids
Guest
Jeff Mathis does Steroids
4 years 20 days ago

And today Napoli and Olt rode the bench so that Michael Young could DH and do nothing but hit a single that maybe should have been an error.

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