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A Look At The Newest Oakland A: Chris Young

Billy Beane turned Cliff Pennington and Yordy Cabrera into Chris Young: an All-Star caliber center fielder. Here are three things that we can look forward to from Young in 2013.

1. Young's plate discipline has improved.

Young saw his swinging-strike rate fall to a career-low 7.3% last year. According to PITCHf/x, Young also made significantly more contact on pitches inside the zone in 2012. He made contact on 85.5% of pitches in the zone in 2011 and 91.9% of pitches in the zone in 2012. He went from being below major-league average (88%) to above it in a season. Consequently, he posted the highest contact rate of his career at 81.7%, well above the 76.7% of 2011.

While an improved contact rate is always welcome, that contact could mean little if it's weak contact. Fortunately for Young, his ISO ticked up alongside his contact rate improvements to a career-best .200. For reference: that's a shade below Yoenis Cespedes's .214 iSO. Young not only hit the ball more frequently, but he also hit it with more authority. While he does strike out a lot, the improvement in his contact rates and power will make the strikeouts more bearable over time.

2. Young is still going to hit home runs in Oakland.

Young has averaged 23 home runs in his six full seasons. While that type of power is impressive, he played half of his games in the desert that's Arizona. Due to the heat, Arizona is a more homer-friendly park than O.co is. However, it may not be much of an issue for Young. While warm weather has been shown to improve hit distance, research shows that it's a matter of a few feet. A 40 degree ball travels at a velocity two percent less than a 120 degree ball. In other words, a 400-foot 120 degree ball would be equivalent to a 392-foot 40 degree ball. On average, Oakland is about 25 degrees cooler than Arizona is, so the difference should only be a matter of a few feet.

Below are some of Young's Chase Field hit charts transposed onto O.co:

Right click and select "Open Image in New Tab" to see a larger version of these charts.

As we can see, even if Young's balls traveled a few feet less, he would have still hit as many home runs in Oakland as he did in Arizona. In fact there are a few doubles in Arizona that would have been home runs in Oakland, so the weather shouldn't depress Young's home run rates in Oakland.

3. Young is an incredible defender.

Over the past two years, Young has been the 3rd best fielder in all of baseball by UZR/150. If we look solely at 2012, of players who logged more than 700 innings at their position, Young finished fourth, right ahead of Josh Reddick. An outfield of Cespedes, Young, and Reddick from left-to-right would be one of the best defensive outfields in baseball.

As great as Crisp was this year, Young was one win better in the field than Crisp was. In the five seasons prior to 2012 seasons, Young played an average of 150 games. Had he played 150 games this year, he would have posted 4.2 WAR. Coco on the other hand played around the number of games he usually does, 120, and posted 2.9 WAR. Young is also 29, while Coco is 33. Pending any other drastic changes, Young should be patrolling center field for the A's in 2013, and he will be a significant upgrade. His improved contact rates, ability to hit the long ball even in the cooler weather of Oakland, and league-leading fielding make him a great addition to the 2013 Oakland A's.

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