Three Reasons To Believe in Chris Young

At some point we will all experience what I have found to be the worst feeling for a baseball fan, a favorite prospect busting. It’s what prospects do best. Many of us, and I’m willing to wager most of us, have already experienced this. It’s like sustaining a concussion. The initial blow, seeing a player whom you spent so much time hyping fail at the major league level, hurts enough. The lingering effects can be even worse. You’ll continue to follow your team’s prospects, but after that first bust you view everyone with extra caution. No one wants to get bopped on the head a second time.

This added caution sometimes causes us to dismiss players before they’ve run their course. A prime example of this is Chris Young, the No. 23 prospect in baseball for the 2006 season. He has played three full seasons now, batting just .235 with a .307 OBP. In terms of results his 2009 was the worst among them, as he posted a .314 wOBA and 0.1 WAR. A ground injury sustained in June impeded him, perhaps making his season look a bit worse. Even so, after underwhelming performances prior to 2009 it’s tough to remain excited about Young’s potential.

Despite the likely disappointment we’ll feel by getting excited over Young, here are three reasons he just might turn things around in 2010.

1. His walk rate is rising

Through his 1,068 minor league plate appearances, Young walked about 12 percent of the time. During his first two years in the bigs that rate was much lower, at 6.9 percent in 2007 and 8.9 percent in 2008. He improved that again in 2009, walking 11.8 percent, or just a fraction under his minor league rate. He also saw more pitches per plate appearance than in his previous two seasons, 4.11. THis probably results from him swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone, just 18 percent, 13th lowest among MLB hitters last season. Perhaps his increased patience is the first step to better production.

2. He’s swinging at more pitched inside the zone

Eno covered this back in December. In comparing Young to Mike Cameron, he noted that the latter swings at more pitches inside the zone. Young is working towards that, though. Not only did he swing at fewer pitches outside the zone, he also swung at more pitches inside the zone in 2009, up to 61.3 percent. The percent changes on both his swings out of the zone and swings in the zone are about the same. They’re not huge, around 2.5 percent each, but it’s something on which he can build. One aspect he’ll need to work on in this regard is making contact with those pitches in the zone. He did that just 82.1 percent of the time in 2009, below his numbers from the previous two years and 5.6 percent below major league average.

3. He’s not the only one

I love historical comparables, especially with struggling players like Young. Using B-R’s Play Index, I searched for players, starting in 1980, who posted an OBP below .310 and struck out more than 250 times in their age 22 through 25 seasons. As expected, there are some disappointing names on that list, including Corey Patterson, Alex Gonzalez (the one drafted by the Blue Jays, not the one who currently plays for them), Juan Samuel, and Jim Presley. Jeff Francoeur also showed up.

There is one name on this list gives Young hope: Dean Palmer. From age 22 through 25 Palmer hit .231/.307/.452, which almost mirror Young’s numbers. Over his next five seasons, from age 26 through 30, Palmer hit .273/.339/.507, posting one more strong year before declining and eventually retiring.

By reducing the strikeout requirement I found another interesting name: Sammy Sosa. From ages 22 through 25 he hit .260/.305/.456, a bit better than Young in terms of average but almost identical power numbers. The difference is that by age 25 Sosa was already starting to murder the ball, as he hit .300/.339/.545 that season, and went on to hit .278/.343/.567 over the next five seasons. Some good news for Young: Sosa led the league in strikeouts in three of those seasons.

Keep your helmet on

If you don’t want to suffer a case of prospect concussion I suggest you keep your helmet strapped on at all times, or else forget about Chris Young as a legitimate MLB player. If you want to hang on, and comprehend the consequences of doing so, there are a few glimmers of hope that he might put together a quality 2010 season. The odds are long. Disappointment looms. But isn’t that the case for all prospects?



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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
David MVP Eckstein
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

If only sammy didn’t have the cloud of cheating over his head…

Jah
Guest
Jah
6 years 4 months ago

if only you didn’t keep the cloud of cheating over his head by mentioning it.

David MVP Eckstein
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

If only he spoke english…

odbsol
Guest
odbsol
6 years 4 months ago

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

FreeStyle 4ooo
Guest
FreeStyle 4ooo
6 years 4 months ago

If he would admit to cheating, the cloud would go away. Let’s not forget; he cheated twice. Corked bat. Juiced bat.

Steven Ellingson
Guest
Steven Ellingson
6 years 4 months ago

Joe,

which Young do you think has a better chance of un-busting? Chris or Delmon?

It’s interesting looking at their WAR projections:
Proj. Delmon Chris
Fans -0.1 2.3
CHONE 1.2 0.7
(2008) -1.3 0.1

A lot of this has to do with defense: CHONE heavily regresses the defensive ratings. I find it unlikely Delmon will ever get the 20 runs above average or so on offense he needs to be an average player. Chris just needs to be league average offensively.

Matt S
Guest
Matt S
6 years 4 months ago

While he is trending towards obtaining his minor league BB rate. I don’t know that the increases in swing rate mentioned above are significant. 2.5% seems like a such a small number that it may just be variance in line with his true talent and not a trend at all. I don’t know what consistency you can expect from such rates and without some idea of the normal levels of variation it is hard to determine much from such numbers. I guess if you are really clawing for positives –

The “cloudy” question aside, Sosa seems a poor comparison unless Young adds 25lb or so of lean muscle sometime soon, as Sosa did.

Ramah71
Member
Ramah71
6 years 4 months ago

Joe is just offering up some hope for players such as Young, although the Young-Sosa comparison indeed seems just a little far-fetched.

Tony
Guest
Tony
6 years 4 months ago

Can we get a “three reasons to believe in Alex Gordon”?

Hell, I’ll be happy if there is anythign over half of a reason.

Steven Ellingson
Guest
Steven Ellingson
6 years 4 months ago

1. He was above average in 2007 and 2008.

Kampfer
Guest
Kampfer
6 years 4 months ago

2. His walk rate was rising

Melkmizzle
Guest
Melkmizzle
6 years 4 months ago

yeesh the point of this article was to help us believe in chris young but basically what it said was a player with his statistical trends breaking out is pretty much unprecedented…

also lets be honest sosa was on the stuff, and young won’t be, i think that comparison should be thrown out the window.

Larry Parrish
Guest
Larry Parrish
6 years 4 months ago

Awesome! Chris Young could be…

Dean Palmer someday?

Ugh. The pain.

He changed his batting stance in AAA last yr. maybe that will help. I drafted him, Andy Marte and Jeremy Hermida. Pfffft.

Paul
Guest
Paul
6 years 4 months ago

Thanks Joe, you just helped me make the decision not to go near Chris Young.

neuter_your_dogma
Guest
neuter_your_dogma
6 years 4 months ago

Although Juan Samuel is now on the Phillies’ “Wall of Fame,” as elected by the fans.

Joser
Member
Joser
6 years 3 months ago

Still far too small of a sample to conclude anything, but for those who want to believe this is how they’d believe a turnaround season would start….

halejon
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

Annnnnnnddddddddddd, we’re BACK to our regularly scheduled career averages….

YO YO YO
Guest
YO YO YO
6 years 2 months ago

Wow, I’m reading this in May. Way to call this one!

spyder962
Member
spyder962
5 years 11 months ago

Just happened to check young’s page and saw this article. He’s put together an above average season. Nice call Joe. Also, there is a comment a little ways regarding Delmon Young. He’s having a nice season too.

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