With the Boston Red Sox outfield, particularly left field, in its injury-ridden state, Chris Young is taking his chance in the starting lineup.
32-year old Chris Young was not the key offseason signing for the Boston Red Sox. He wasn’t brought in to take a starting job away from the likes of Mookie Betts or Jackie Bradley. Originally he was viewed as a platoon piece to mash LHP in an outfield ripe with young talent. With the injury bug biting hard in front of the Green Monster, Young may find himself as an everyday starter, for now.
Young was drafted in 2001 by the Chicago White Sox. The 16th-round pick bounced around to five teams in eleven seasons, most notably with the Diamondbacks, where he was named an All-Star in 2010. Young has slashed a career .236/.315/.432 with 140 home runs, maintaining double-digit home run totals in each year since his rookie season in 2007.
The month of April was not kind to the veteran in his first season in Fenway. He appeared in 16 games (8 as a pinch-hitter) posting a .185 AVG with no long balls. As injuries mounted throughout the lineup, John Farrell stuck with Young, and he has not disappointed.
The left fielder improved his AVG to .296 and tacked on four home runs, clearly rebounding after a slow start. Young’s top performance came on June 1 in a 13-9 loss in Camden Yards, where he slugged two homers and a double in five plate appearances. Four days later he would break up Marco Estrada‘s no-hit bid in the eighth inning with a solo homer.
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With three home runs in the past week, it’s clear that Farrell needs to keep Young on the field, with the only healthy alternative being Rusney Castillo. Some might suggest Castillo start over Young, as the Red Sox pay the 28-year old Cuban much more than his veteran counterpart. In a ultra-competitive AL East however, there is no time to experiment with underwhelming players earning overwhelming amounts of money. We had no problem benching a floundering Pablo Sandoval, and we shouldn’t have a problem here.
The real decision may come when Brock Holt returns from his concussion. The 24-year old utility player earned an All-Star appearance last season, but has slightly unperformed this season. The most likely outcome of Holt’s eventual return will be a platoon in left field, with Young starting against lefties (.414 AVG against LHP in 2016) and Holt against righties.
Blake Swihart‘s ankle injury seems to have a long recovery involved, further adding to the left field problem, which may be a season-long issue. Even with his return, Young is still hitting better than any other left field option.
Young has done it before. He has the experience and a new-found hitting stroke that can be a real help to the Red Sox as they battle through injuries in the summer. For the very immediate future, he’s the guy the Red Sox need in the lineup as we try to fend of Baltimore and Toronto heading deep into the summer.