Chris B. Young’s Contact Woes

To be honest, I had figured that Diamondbacks centerfielder Chris B. Young would be entrenched as a star-caliber player by this point in his career. A 6-2, 200 pounder with a unique blend of patience, power and athleticism, Young was originally a 16th round steal by the Chicago White Sox in the 2001 amateur entry draft. On the heels of a gargantuan season for AA Birmingham in 2005 (.277/.377/.545, 26 HR in 554 PA), Young was shipped to the D-Backs in a deal that netted Chicago the equally enigmatic Javier Vazquez. The one question that pundits had about Young was his lofty strikeout totals, but he appeared to be making some gains on that front as he climbed the minor league ladder:

2005 (AA): 12.7 BB%, 23.3 K%
2006 (AAA): 11.5 BB%, 17.7 K%

Following a .276/.359/.532 campaign at AAA Tucson that included the reduction in his whiffs, Young made a brief cameo with Arizona and looked poised to post some outstanding numbers as an everyday player in 2007.

However, Young’s transition to the majors did not go as smoothly as expected. His solid plate discipline eroded, as he managed just a 7% walk rate to go along with a lofty 24.8 K%. While he displayed a good deal of pop (.230 ISO), Young’s .237/.295/.467 showing earned him a -0.05 WPA/LI.

2008 brought him some gains in the patience department, as he upped his walk rate to 9%. However, that sinister K rate rose to 26.4% and he posted a .248/.315/.443 line, with a slightly better WPA/LI of 0.24. Young’s 77.47% contact rate placed him in the lower third tier among qualified batters, though it was actually an improvement over his 76.66% rate in 2007. Young also got jammed with alarming frequency, as his 16.8 IF/FB% was the fifth-highest mark among qualified batters. So, what gives?

If a player possesses good secondary skills (walks and power), strikeouts do not preclude success. However, a K rate in the vicinity of Young’s does put a significant cap on his batting average, putting more stress on his ability to draw free passes and pop extra base hits; if you’re only going to manage a .230 average, you better be able to draw walks by the bushel to compensate (lest you post execrable OBP’s like Young has to this point). It does appear that Young made some gains in this department, as he lowered his Outside Swing Percentage (O-Swing%) from 22.87 in 2007 to 20.43% in 2008.

The question regarding Young at this point is, will he draw enough free passes to offset the handicap of a .230-ish batting average? Given his track record, it seems reasonable that Young will draw a few more walks as he matures, but the high K rate is here to stay given his contact rate and his issues with breaking balls. Still, he has the secondary skills and speed (27 SB in ’07, 14 in ’08) to be a fantasy asset. Only 25 heading into next season, Young still possesses the skills to guide him down a Mike Cameron-type career path if he can be a little more selective at the plate.

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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on and, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

5 Responses to “Chris B. Young’s Contact Woes”

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  1. Jim says:

    How many bases do you think Chris Young will steal? Is it closer to the 07 number or the 08 number?

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  2. David Golebiewski says:


    Given Young’s minor league track record and his PECOTA forecast prior to 2008, I would tend to think that his SB total would split the difference between ’07 and ’08. I think 20 SB is a decent (if unscientific) estimate Of course, he’s got to figure out a way to reach base first. If that walk rate trends up, so will his SB opportunities.

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  3. Fresh Hops says:

    I don’t think contact is the issue with Young. There are many guys that have similar contact rates that do a much better job of getting on board. A-Rod has a lower contact rate than Young.

    In 2008, the best comparables with Young as far as discipline stats were Rickie Weeks, Jason Giambi and Nick Swisher. (I’m talking about guys who were like Young specifically in 2008, not in their careers.) None of those guys struggles to walk like Young. It’s hard to say without further scrutiny, but, since that’s actually pretty good company to be in as far as plate discipline, it suggests that those three do something differently than Young. My guess is that Young doesn’t work the count well.

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  4. R M says:

    Young is only 25, doesn’t it seem like he could still work on hitting breaking balls and bring down the K rates a bit?

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  5. Ezra says:

    I’m about to release him in my league, enough is enough. A Mike Cameron type is not going to help me win this year.

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