News came down the pipe today that the Mets signed Chris Young to a one-year deal, with no salary terms yet released. The good news is this is the former Diamondbacks and A’s outfielder – not the former Mets pitcher. Now the question remains: Is there any other good news to go along with this signing?
Young put up a .200/.280/.379 line last year, which are hardly numbers to get the fan base excited. Yet there are a couple of reasons to expect better production going forward. The first was a .237 BABIP. In 3,588 PA before 2013, Young had a career .278 BABIP so we can expect a fair bit of positive regression. The other big thing was his production in his home park.
Last year was his first year in Oakland and the O.co Coliseum was not very kind to Young. In 196 PA in his home park, Young managed just a .606 OPS. Compare that to his road numbers, where he had a .208/.291/.428 line for an OPS mark 112 points higher. Usually hitters perform slightly better in their home park.
Now, to be fair, most Mets hitters didn’t get that particular memo in 2013. But the average NL batter last year posted an OPS 21 points higher in his home park. Hopefully both Young and the rest of the Mets can have a more typical H/R split in 2014. His brief exposure to Citi Field is not promising, however. In 41 PA Young has just a .550 OPS with only two extra-base hits – one double and one triple.
Young has five seasons as a full-time player under his belt and in the 2007-2011 period he posted an 11.6 fWAR. In 2010 and 2011, Young put up back-to-back years of 4.0+ fWAR numbers. He was off to a terrific start in 2012, with a 1.397 OPS including 9 XBH and 5 HR in 46 PA, before crashing into a wall to make a catch. He ended up with a shoulder injury that sidelined him for a month. When he finally came back, he was just a shell of himself, with a .655 OPS. However, he did crack 29 XBH over his final 286 ABs.
So, we have an established 4-win player who was off to a terrific start and then came down with a serious injury. Then he was traded from a good hitter’s park to a rotten one and his numbers took a predictable tumble. Also hurting his numbers was his lack of playing time. By the end of the year, Young was relegated to the short side of a platoon role. He’s always hit better against LHP but his numbers against righties – lifetime .710 OPS – are tolerable.
Most will look at this signing as the Mets adding a platoon player. Yet it seems that there’s just so much more potential upside here. Of course a lot will depend upon how much he’s getting paid but it’s hard to imagine that Sandy Alderson would have invested an eight-figure salary into such a player.
My initial reaction to the news is to be cautiously optimistic. While Young is not the impact bat that the Mets need to acquire, he has a reasonable chance to be an average player in a full-time role. As his old team the Athletics showed us last year, there’s a lot of value to not having any sinkholes in the lineup.