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June 23, 2010

Fantasy Beat

A Young Breakout - Part 2

by Craig Brown

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On Monday, we talked about a Delmon Young and his breakout season.  In keeping with the Young theme, it’s time to turn our attention to another Young who is enjoying a rebound year – Arizona outfielder Chris Young.   With a .212 batting average and declining power and speed, Young endured a miserable 2009.  So far, his 2010 has represented quite a turnaround – and it’s been a fantasy bonanza as well.  Young’s current .284 Tav is the best of his career by about 30 points and his current 2.0 WARP is just three-tenths off his best-ever showing back in 2008.  This has been quite a run.

Young has sliced his strikeout rate, but he’s pared it back just a touch from the ’07 and ’08 seasons. Of course the reduction in strikeouts has led to more balls put in play.  Here are some of Young’s key rates over his career:

A few of things to take from this chart.  First, his miserable 2009 wasn’t really a mystery.  Those numbers border on the grotesque.  Look, last season was just a disaster.  He owned a 0.36 GB/FB ratio and a huge number of those balls put in the air didn’t travel further than 120 feet. That won't help the old batting average.  Or your fantasy team.  Second, moving onto this year, his low line drive rate is a concern.  Combine that with an improved - but still low - percentage of balls in play and a .314 BABIP and it’s likely his average is either at or near it’s high-water mark for the year.  There’s really no way he can stay around .275 for much longer.  Young just isn't the type of player who will hit close to the league average.

The good news is Young’s returning power is both welcome and real.  His 12% HR/FB rate is a touch better than the last couple of years where he posted a rate close to 10% HR/FB, and as mentioned earlier, he’s accomplishing this on fewer fly balls.  This has led to a .202 ISO, which is the first time he’s been that high since 2007 when he set a career high at .230.  Young has also become a dependable RBI man for the first time in his career.  So far this season, he’s brought around 20% of all base runners and is hitting .333/.378/.545 in 74 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.  That’s well above his career rate of 14% and the major league average of 15%. Last year, he hit .161 with runners in scoring position.

Of course the other part of Young’s game is his speed.  He’s running roughly in roughly 15% of his steal opportunities and has an 86% success rate. 

Run% measures how often he attempts a steal when he has a stolen base opportunity.  Young is running more frequently this year and even better, he’s never been this successful.  That will lead to more attempts.

Young will do everything for you except hit for average.  His current contact rate of 74% is still far too low and he continues to put too many balls in the air to expect otherwise.  However, his power, RBI acumen and speed are making him more valuable than ever.  The average will definitely come down.  I figure he’ll finish around .250, give or take five points.  His power and speed will more than make up for that.  Finally.

Craig Brown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here

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