Boston Red Sox Report Cards: Chris Young
By Sean Penney
The BoSox Injection staff reflects on the 2016 season by grading each member of the Boston Red Sox based on expectations for them entering the season.
Chris Young did exactly what the Boston Red Sox brought him here to do – mash against lefties.
The veteran outfielder hit .329 with a .999 OPS against southpaws this season, filling in on a limited basis off the bench as the fourth outfielder for the Red Sox.
Young saw sporadic playing time early in the season, with the Red Sox facing a long string of right-handed starters. That left manager John Farrell to be creative in finding him opportunities as a pinch-hitter against a lefty reliever, often at the expense of third baseman Travis Shaw.
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Unfortunately, Farrell’s insistence on keeping Young engaged with fairly regular playing time resulted in a bit too much exposure to right-handed pitching. Young actually saw nearly twice as many plate appearances against right-handers, against whom he hit a more pedestrian .246 with a .765 OPS.
Following a slow start to the season, Young finally started to heat up in May. He recorded at least one hit in 14 straight games in which he received multiple plate appearances from early May through mid-June.
Just as Young was starting to establish his role with the team, a hamstring injury near the end of June knocked him out for nearly two months. The injury sidelined him longer than expected, leaving the Red Sox thin at a left field position that was ravaged by injuries all season. Every player that saw at least 10 games in left field for the Red Sox this season missed more than two weeks due to injury, with the exception of Bryce Brentz, who spent most of the year in the minors.
Young finished the season on a high note, hitting .296 with three homers over his final 54 at-bats in September/October. His only postseason plate appearances came in Game 3 of the ALDS, where he went 0-for-1 with a walk.
His overall stat line for the season was a solid .276/.352/.498 with 9 home runs and 28 RBI. Not bad for a fourth outfielder, especially given his success against lefties.
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Expect Young to return to his fourth outfielder role in 2017, with the bulk of his playing time coming against lefties. The Red Sox have one of the best trio of outfielders in the game, which will make it difficult for Young to find playing time. His talents may be best utilized in the manner they were early this season, pinch-hitting for guys like Shaw that struggle against southpaws, with someone like Brock Holt entering as a defensive replacement in the following frame.
Young could split time in left field with Andrew Benintendi, who struggled to the tune of a .179 average against lefties. However, that was in a minuscule sample size and the rookie’s minor league track record suggests he should be able to handle lefties. Jackie Bradley could get some time off against left-handed pitching, with Benintendi sliding over to center and Young taking over in left. JBJ hit a mediocre .244 against lefties this season, but over the last three seasons he’s actually performed better against lefties. That, along with his phenomenal defense, should dissuade the Red Sox from benching him in favor of Young too often.