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Chris Young the Athletic

No, I’m not alluding to Alexander the Great or commenting on Chris Young‘s agility, which I’m sure he possesses boatloads of. Back on October 20, Young came to the Beane, as he was traded to Oakland to give them their bajillionth outfielder. Without even looking at numbers, we could be pretty sure that all else equal, Young’s performance will suffer moving into spacious O.co Coliseum (can I officially nominate this as the worst name for an MLB park? thanks). But of course, this is FanGraphs, and we’re all about our calculators and slide rules, so let’s see exactly how his production may be affected.

First off, our own Jack Moore provided a nice write-up of Young after the trade and discussed the separated shoulder Young suffered in mid-April. It seems too easy to blame his struggles when he returned on through the All-Star break to coming back too soon from the injury. Of course, it might just be your standard ups and downs all hitters go through during the season, as Young finished the year with overall performance figures right in line with past seasons. Since he was fine after the All-Star break, I’ll just ignore the injury and assume he is completely healthy right now.

Let’s summarize the relevant right-handed park factors for both Chase Field and O.co Coliseum:

  K 1B HR Runs
Chase Field 99 104 108 114
O.co Coliseum 100 94 84 93

Young’s K% has remained remarkably consistent over the past three seasons, sitting in the 21%-22% range. The ballpark switch looks to have no effect on his contact ability. For most players, a move from a park that inflates singles by 4% to one that suppresses them by 6% is going to have quite a negative impact on their BABIP. But, Young isn’t exactly a BABIP master, as he sports a career average of just .278. His combination of tons of fly balls and lots of pop-ups results in a high percentage of easy outs compared to a hitter with a league average batted ball distribution. How much lower can his BABIP go? I’m afraid to find out, and now the chances of a sudden spike have just declined substantially. Unfortunately, a harmful batting average is once again a near lock.

Moving along the park factor table, we next come to the biggest question mark, Young’s power, and specifically his ability to hit the long ball. As you could see, there aren’t many ballpark switch pairs that are as unfavorable as this one. Doing the math based on half his games played at home, he’ll see about a 12% reduction in his home run rate. Prorating last season’s at-bat total to 550, Young was on pace for 24 home runs. That becomes 21 with the park factor adjustment in Oakland. The last column is runs scored and as you can guess, other factors such as doubles and triples help boost Chase Field’s advantage for hitters even further.

The last thing I will note is Young’s stolen base potential with his new team. Back in the day, the A’s were notorious for sitting near the bottom of the league in steals. This is no longer the case though, as the team ranked 9th in baseball in stolen bases and 6th in the American League. Both of those ranks are much better than the Diamondbacks, who sit closer to the bottom. Obviously, roster composition plays a big role in a team’s stolen base totals, but it’s safe to say that the move shouldn’t cost him any steal attempts. Young only stole 8 bases last year (pro-rated to 14 based on 650 plate appearances), after swiping over 20 the previous two seasons. His Spd score dropped off the table as well and he easily recorded the lowest infield hit percentage of his career. His speed skills may very well be waning.

Young was never a highly coveted fantasy outfielder, but always a solid choice who provided a nice speed/power combination. With his injury shortened season and a move to a hitter’s graveyard, he’ll likely come the cheapest he has since 2010 drafts. I’m not very optimistic that he’ll prove to be profitable either, as his safety net, the steals, may not fully rebound.