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“Young” Buccs

Posted By Eno Sarris On July 5, 2009 @ 11:17 am In Outfielders | 4 Comments

The dust has settled after a mini-fury of deals for the Pirates, and it looks like a couple young outfielders ended up gaining some playing time. The bad news is that, beyond wunderkind Andrew McCutchen, this outfield is deeply flawed. No matter, let’s see what benefit deep-league managers can mine from the group.

Delwyn Young – In terms of major league experience, the starting right fielder for the Buccs is not yet fully formed. His .280/.360/.404 line represents only 280 big league at-bats. It’s not yet time to close the book on his potential, especially in his 27th year on the planet. With a few notches up in each component of the slash-line, for example, and you’ve suddenly got an outfielder with some speed and some power and an .800 OPS. That’s value, and depending on how deep your league is, it’s time to pounce just on upside alone.

How much upside is left in this right fielder is worth taking a look at. His minor league slash line (.303/.363/.514 in over 3000 plate appearances) shows some slugging ability that he hasn’t really shown in the major leagues. Unfortunately, some of his more recent slugging performances (.571 in AAA in 2007, for example) have been in Las Vegas, which played about 10% in the hitter’s favor from 2006-2008. Shave 10% off that high water mark and you’re right in line with his career minor league production.

In general, Young cut his strikeouts and upped his walks as he advanced in the Dodgers’ minor league system, which can only be seen as a positive. On the flip side, however, he was old for every station, as he signed at 20 and hit AA at 23 years old. With 28 steals against 18 caught stealings, Young doesn’t show much stolen base capability despite some okay speed scores in the minors (5.1 and 5.5 in his last AAA appearances). So the oscillating slugging ability provides the big question for Young. The fact that he managed to accrue over 100 home runs in over 700 minor league games says there’s at least a chance Young can find his way to some more power in the major leagues.

But in terms of staying power in the major leagues, his bat probably won’t play at the corner outfield position for very long (at least at current slugging levels). He was a decent-fielding 2B in the minor leagues. If he starts fielding balls there again, his long term prospects improve.

Garrett Jones – Jones is another player with a well-established minor league line and very few chances in the majors. His 4185 plate appearances in the minors have resulted in an unsightly slash line (.258/.312/.450), and both the Braves and Twins organizations have given up on him despite both needing slugging in the outfield.

Three years ago, Jones was coming off 140 games in his second go at AAA, and he might have thought his career was in the balance because of his putrid showing (.238/.302/.430). But he bucked up and put up some numbers that caught the Pirates’ eyes. He’s had better than a .800 OPS for three straight years at AAA since, with a batting average over .280 and a slugging percentage close to .500. He also showed the best strikeout rates of his career to date, as he cut his near-20% rate down to around 15%.

If he can maintain his power with the new strikeout rate in the major leagues, he has a chance of strengthening his tenuous grip on a job. He’s battling Brandon Moss, whose .263/.313/.383 production this year is reminding people of his fourth-outfielder label coming up in the Boston system. Jones certainly has more power potential than the speedier Moss, and slugging two home runs in his first weekend as a Buc helped his chances of catching a regular job.

Few 27- and 28-year-old rookies even rise to the level of an average major-league regular. Give the Bucs some credit for fielding two somewhat-promising players in this category, but the odds say that they’ll be lucky to find one regular outfielder between the two. Because Young’s numbers were more consistent in the minor leagues, and he’s a year younger than Jones, he seems to be the better bet.

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