Chris Young is a center fielder with the New York Mets. Previously he played for the Oakland Athletics, with whom he was terrible. Chris Young is also irrelevant to our current topic of discussion, since Chris Young is not the same as Chris Young, who is a 34-year-old starting pitcher. Recently, Chris Young was released by the Nationals after pitching well in spring training. More recently, Chris Young signed a one year, major league contract with the Seattle Mariners. So that’s why we’re talking about Chris Young.
As a name, Young is terribly generic, though the same can’t be said about him as a baseballer. The first thing that stands out about Young is that he’s 6’10”. That’s the same height as Randy Johnson, meaning that Young is tied for third-tallest all time amongst professional baseball players behind only Eric Hillman and Jon Rauch. This makes him an obviously imposing mound presence, despite a fastball that tops out at 88 mph. But the thing about tall guy pitchers is that they are able to give off the impression of throwing much harder than they actually do, so you could say that Young throws a particularly fast 88. This is a unique advantage for tall players, and Young has taken advantage of it throughout his career.
It was noted earlier that Young is 34, and thus implied that he’s had a long career in the majors. That’s true, he has! Young has amassed 890.2 innings over nine big league seasons, and all of his 159 appearances have been starts. There are kickers, of course – there always are – and the biggest one is that Young has pitched three full seasons: 2005, 2006, and 2007. He didn’t pitch at all in the majors last year, and really has had trouble staying healthy his entire career. In 2012 with the Mets, Young pitched 115 decent innings, which is kind of nice. He even added 23 minor league innings! Then last year his innings total was 37, all in the minors. Young may be healthy now, but expecting that to last is foolish.
Young is a Seattle Mariner because he is healthy now, and has generated positive reports in Washington’s spring camp. Randy Wolf may have been the M’s in-house choice for the fifth starter spot a few days ago, but that doesn’t mean he’d looked any kind of good this spring – it just meant he looked healthy. Young looks both healthy and good, so he’s a clear upgrade. Any notion of Wolf’s release being due to the team’s zero balance bank account is now officially shot down, as Young signed a $1.25 million major league contract. The M’s aren’t broke. They probably aren’t even remotely close to broke.
Chris Young is kind of like a pitching answer to Franklin Gutierrez, though to less of an extreme. Young gets hurt a lot, and thus doesn’t play all that much. But when he does he’s been effective, and it’s not like the team is counting on him to make 32 elite starts. He’ll be a starter in April, then maybe hang out in the bullpen as a long man/depth piece. Or be released. Or, more likely, get hurt, but come back to be useful. Chris Young is not a reliable guy. But he’s a good pitcher when healthy, and that’s something the Mariners need more of in 2014.