Chris Moran is a second-year law student at Washington University in St. Louis. He is also an assistant coach with the baseball team at Washington University. He graduated from Wheaton College, where he wore the tools of ignorance for the baseball team. Follow him on twitter @hangingslurves.
Chris Young is coming off a season with the Oakland Athletics where he hit just .200/.280/.379 in 375 plate appearances. He also struck out 93 times. The A’s declined his $11 million option, making him a free agent.
Despite his struggles in 2013, Young makes sense for a lot of teams, including the Boston Red Sox. If Jacoby Ellsbury departs in free agency, the Sox will likely go with Jackie Bradley Jr. as their opening day centerfielder. The 23 year-old Bradley Jr. struggled mightily in 107 plate appearances with the big league club but remains a promising prospect.
If Bradley isn’t ready to be the everyday centerfielder, Young can play an adequate center field, and he is solid at the corner outfield spots. Even with the down year in 2013, Young has totaled 7.4 WAR over the last three seasons, and his average WAR/600 PA is a solid 3.2. He runs the bases well, plays solid defense, and has been roughly average with the bat. Dexter Fowler is being tossed around as a hot commodity in trade rumors. Fowler has 7.1 WAR in the last three seasons with almost 300 more plate appearances. Young can be acquired for considerably less, and he’s only 2.5 years older.
Furthermore, if his future employer does not want to rely on him being an everyday player, Young appears to be a very good platoon candidate. His career line against lefties is .262/.363/.474. Against righties, Young is just a career .225/.295/.415 hitter. Over the last three years, he’s .251/.351/.465 against lefties and .212/.293/.387 against righties.
Fenway Park is a great place for a righthanded fly ball hitter. Since 2006, only 10 of 412 qualified hitters have hit a higher rate of fly balls than Young. This tends to lead to a lower in-play batting average, and Young has just a .274 career mark. However, at Fenway, more of those fly balls will clang off the Monster or creep over the wall.
Don’t overemphasize Chris Young’s poor 2013 season. He’s only one year removed from a 2.5 WAR season in only 363 plate appearances, and he was one of the games’s 5-7 best center fielders as recently as 2010-11. Young probably won’t give you a good batting average, but he has power, draws walks, runs the bases well and has defensive versatility. He would be a good fit for a lot of teams, but I think the Red Sox will make a strong push for him if Ellsbury leaves.
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