April 7, 2010
Checking In On The Young Ones
We’re two days into the season (so it’s too early to draw conclusions about anything) but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything we should be keeping an eye on. For instance, one of my favorite batter/pitcher matchups occurred in one of yesterday’s games, and both players happen to be 2009 disappointments looking for a 2010 rebound—meaning, in many cases, they may be available on free agent lists in mixed leagues or stashed on benches in NL-only leagues.
I’m talking about Chris Young and…Chris Young. Chris Young, the tall, right-handed pitcher, dealt with injuries in 2009, which left his value in a limbo state. 2008 had also been a shortened campaign, and there were some questions about his performance that we needed answered in 2009, and that just didn’t happen. Chris B. Young (who seems less worthy of his surname each year he fails to meet his potential) has, after three full seasons in the majors and a partial year, not put all the facets of his game together into one productive season, and has driven countless fantasy owners crazy in the process. The two faced off yesterday, with the pitcher getting the better of the hitter—again. The D’back is 0-for-16 in his career against the Padre, including yesterday’s performance.
When it comes to the Diamondback, it’s hard to be optimistic if you’ve gone down this road before. Young’s power potential is tantalizing, especially when you think about the speed he flashed on the basepaths in 2007 (27 stolen bases, six CS). In the two seasons since though, he’s nabbed just 25 total, and been caught nine times. This wouldn’t be a big deal if his bat had progressed, but the only offensive item working for him is his ISO--.230, .195 and .187 the past three years. His contact rates are woeful though, meaning his slugging percentages aren’t as high as you would like. Had he qualified, he would have had the 11th lowest contact rate in the majors in 2009. He has swung at fewer pitches outside of the zone each year, and his walk rate has increased, but he doesn’t seem to be doing anything extra with the pitches he does swing at inside of the zone—this could be a false marker of hope, in a way. It’s okay to be passive at the plate and draw walks, but you need to do something with pitches you should be hitting inside the zone when you can—Kevin Youkilis made that kind of transition, and it moved him from a solid-hitting, walk-first first baseman into one of the more impressive sluggers in the game.
Now, I’m not saying B. Young is going to convert into someone like that if he starts to do more with pitches he can hit, but he needs to improve on his contact and batting averages, or else the improving walk rates and consistent power aren’t going to mean very much. Let's look at his teammate, Justin Upton, as an example. Upton's contact rates were as poor as Young's in 2009 (he ranked 10th) but he was able to do much more with the pitches he did hit, and had a better year than it looks like Young may ever have given the circumstances.
As for Chris Young the hurler, his first start of the year was a positive sign (but remember, it’s just one in the books). He went six innings, giving up just one hit (to Justin Upton) while whiffing five and walking three. It’s comforting to see that his K/BB ratio is right around his normal rates (when he’s healthy, anyways) but don’t get too excited about a six inning sample. Young admits that his slider wasn’t working for him until late in his start—Young is basically a two-pitch pitcher, so that’s significant—but thanks to facing a club with some of the worst contact hitters in the league, he was able to get away with it. Pay attention to how well his slider works in the early goings to see if this is going to be a consistent issue as he works back from injury, because he’ll need it for consistent success, even with Petco on his side.
That being said, it’s probably safe to acquire him if he’s available in your league, or to start him if he’s on your bench. The biggest question surrounding him is his health—if he’s feeling good, he should pitch well, but if he starts hurting there will be trouble (see: 2009). He’ll be a two-start pitcher in the second week of fantasy matchups as well, something to make note of if you’re in a head-to-head league.