The Volatile Asset that is Chris Young.


     This off-season Sandy Alderson signed CF Chris Young to a 1 yr contract worth $7.25M burning approximately 22.5% of his off-season budget in the process. Before reaching the majors Young was a Baseball America Top 25 prospect in 2005 and a Top 15 prospect in 2006 in the Chicago White Sox minor league system. Young was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006 in exchange for Javier Vasquez in a deal that was widely regarded as a steal for the Diamondbacks.

     In his official rookie season in 2007, Young powered the Diamondbacks all the way to the NLCS batting .237 with 32 HR and 27 SB and finishing 4th in the Rookie of the Year voting behind Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, and Hunter Pence. His 2008 saw him improve his AVG and OBP numbers while sacrificing his power but he still managed to finish amongst the Top 10 of power hitting Center-fielders. From his debut to today, Chris Young ranks 6th amongst CF in HRs. The only guys ahead of him are Curtis Granderson, Josh Hamilton, Carlos Beltran, Torii Hunter, and Matt Kemp, a very prestigious group of players.

     For the New York Mets, signing Young establishes a dilemma over which Young to start. The powerful Chris Young or the speedster and incumbent LF Eric Young. Based on last season, "EYJ" led the National League in SBs, was the team's leadoff batter, and improved the offense upon his arrival in NY while "CY" hit a career low .200 with a career low 12 HR and uncharacteristically below average defense in all 3 OF positions. Despite the stark 2013 contributions differences, EYJ worth only +0.8 Wins above the replacement level LF while CY was worth +0.5 WAR. 

     How can this be? Well its simple really, the LF position is generally one that provides power over speed and defense since LF is considered an easier position to play. As a result calculations reduce the defensive value of a LF by -7.5 basis points to start the season. In Eric Young's case, his fielding abilities are not good enough to overcome to reduction while Chris Young, who is widely regarded as a top defensive OF, can cover this with ease. More importantly, Chris Young's expected power and speed numbers fall within or above the mean for an average LF while for Eric Young his power falls below the mean and his speed above the mean.

     The information above shows why Eric Young Jr. will never be anything more than a below average LF as his skill set is more tuned for the CF or 2B positions. However his skill set is also more consistent year over year as he has been worth anywhere from -0.8 to +1.7 WAR. Chris Young on the other hand is FAR more volatile. Depending on the batting average he post in a particular year he could be worth +0.5 WAR or as high as 5.5 WAR which is considered an All-Star caliber season.

    If you have been able to follow me through this whole analysis then awesome. But by no means should this evidence be used to suggest that Chris Young be the starter over Eric Young. The only purpose of this is to show that as bad as Chris Young was in 2013, he could also be a massive improvement for the club in 2014. The difference between a career .235 hitter and a career .258 hitter is only 13 base hits and last season EYJ scored 28% of time he was on base so those 13 extra hits resulted in 3-4 more runs. This contribution is far less significant then the difference between a 3 HR per yr hitter and a 24 HR per yr hitter which converts into runs 100% of time and sometimes results in multiple runs. If we assume that all those extra HR were of the solo variety, CY provides 21 additional runs of offense via the longball over EYJ.

So who do you pick folks? Chris Young or Eric Young?


Anonymous said...

Easy choice.......you don't pay a bench player 7.5 million dollars. As you stated, EYJ is an inferior player compared to CY in all aspects (except for SB and CY is no slouch).

EYJ is a nice bench piece who can fill in anywhere in the OF for a spot start or as a nice PH/PR.

CY may end up in RF, with Granderson in LF. Puello is the long term solution in RF, hence the one year deal for CY.

Reese Kaplan said...

I guess Michael Young and Eric Young Sr. are not options, huh? :)

Mack Ade said...

The important thing seems to be who will the Mets choose and teams always seem to go with the money.

David L. Whitman said...

It's easy to say Chris Young except for the fact that he doesn't fare very well against RHP, so in all likelihood he's a platoon in the making. Because of this EYjr will get plenty of ABs.

I envision the OF breakdown something like this: Granderson 145-150 games, Lagares 120-125, C Young (if he's not traded) 110-130, Eric Young 80-100 OF, den Dekker 50-100 (depending if they trade Young) and Puello 25-50 with a potential of 80+ if he tears up AAA and the Mets are hit with injuries or performance regression in the OF.

Herb G said...

Christopher -

The competition is not between the two Youngs, it is between EYJ and Lagares. Chris Young will be a regular in the Mets OF, in a corner if Lagares gets the nod over Eric, and in CF if EYJ gets more regular time in left. Based on comments we've heard lately, it appears that EYJ will be valued more because he profiles as the only legitimate leadoff hitter on the roster.

The big question is whether Lagares starts the season as the regular CF in Las Vegas, to hone his hitting skills and to work on better use of his speed on the basepaths, or does he get a bench spot as a super late inning defensive replacement and pinch hitter.

David L. Whitman said...

I don't get the team's infatuation with EYJr. He's a fine role player-type but that's about it. He's pushing 29, he is what he is.

It's not like the Mets are going to be contenders this year, so they need to focus on development and seeing what a player like Lagares can do on a daily basis. Use Murphy at lead off, or Tejada, hell maybe even TDA.

I'm sorry but a guy who puts up a .300-.320 OPB doesn't belong at the top of the order, I don't care if he can steal 25-30 bags. The more Young Jr plays, the more his weaknesses are exposed. Making him an everyday CF is a bad move.

It further holds back the development of players like Lagares and den Dekker-not to mention Puello. Lagares is a freakin' gazelle in CF, and for a team that's going to be reliant on pitching and defense to stay in ballgames, that cannot be undervalued.

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