Saturday, April 18, 2009

Why Not Young?

Hey, GW has heard from some of his Bucco buddies, and their drawers are bunched over the Pirates picking up another outfielder. But it's really no mystery - Pittsburgh is a marginally better team with him, and Young is just another small piece of the puzzle the Pittsburgh suits are trying hard to solve.

Young wasn't a primo prospect, ala Andy LaRoche, though he was the fourth round pick for LA in 2002. To be generous, his arm is average, his defense is average, and his speed is average. But there is one thing he can do, and that's hit.

He's projected as a guy that potentially can bat .280 with 30 doubles and 15 HR's if given an everyday role. Young's a switch-hitter (although he hits lefties far better than righties, which will limit him), and had 14 pinch hits last season.

He's versatile, but will never be mistaken for a Gold Glove. Though he's been playing outfield since 2006, he started out as a second baseman and has over 500 minor league games at the position.

It wasn't a sudden Pirate brainstorm to work him as an infielder - the Dodgers did the same thing with him in the spring, drilling him at second and third. In fact, at one point a couple of seasons ago, it was thought that he had a chance to take Jeff Kent's place at second; it's said that the bat was willing, but the glove was weak.

And he'd still be in Dodger Blue if the LA suits had a crystal ball and could see that Doug Mientkiewicz was going to separate his shoulder a day or two after they DFA'ed Young.

What the Pirates got was a guy with good lumber that's going to be 27 at the end of June. He was for all intents and purposes taken to fill 32 year-old Andy Phillips slot as a utility man.

Young may have some upside left, unlike Phillips, and at best could compete with Shelby Ford and Jimmy Negrych when second base opens up. At worst, he's a decent stick off the bench (in fact, he may be best suited to DH), gotten on the cheap.

It wasn't a big move, but it was one that makes some sense for the Pirates, still trying to fill the talent gap inherited from the ghosts of Pittsburgh's past.

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