The first thing you think of when you see Chesny Young is how slight of build he is. The second thing you think, particularly if you’ve ever seen him play, is that the kid can rake.
At 6 feet and 170 pounds, Young looks small, but that’s nothing 10-15 pounds wouldn’t fix. On the other hand, watching him in the batter’s box is a thing of beauty. I first saw him in August of 2014, two months into his pro career at Kane County. The 14th round pick out of Mercer looked like a baseball rat. Everything he did those days at Kane County just reeked of someone who lived and breathed baseball.
Last year, I continued my fascination with his hitting skills, first at South Bend and then at Myrtle Beach. I was actually surprised to see Young stay in low-A to start 2015. To me, this kid knew how to hit. And he knew how to work a count, take pitches, go the other way, and drive pitchers crazy with his plate discipline.
In 2014, Young played 27 games at Kane County and hit .324 after hitting .354 at Boise. Young was a key part down the stretch for that 2014 Midwest League Championship team. In 2015, he only played a month at South Bend, where it was clear from the get-go that he didn’t belong in low-A. In just 28 games he hit .315 with a .385 OBP. In early May, he got the call to go to high-A Myrtle Beach.
Young played all over the field at there, including 2B, 3B, SS, both corner OF spots, 1B and DH. He had an amazing 44-game on-base streak and won the league batting title by over 24 points with a .321 average. He also put up a very solid OBP of .394. It’s clear that he is one of the best pure hitters in the Cubs organization, and arguably the best.
2016 will be a big jump as he moves up to AA Tennessee but I have no doubt that he can handle himself at the plate and in the field. The concern going forward though is simple: Can he hit for some power? In terms of his development, Young isn’t in a do-or-die spot. If he doesn’t develop power, he can still be a very good pro, likely a utility type of player. If he does put some muscle on, however, he could easily make the leap to everyday player as long as he hits for average, too.
Fan Graphs said this of Young’s current status and projection:
His swing is relaxed and compact with solid sequencing making up for his lack of raw bat speed and strength. Young shows the ability to lift the ball into the outfield with regularity, though he won’t hit for much if any home run power. He should continue spraying line drives around the field as the pitching he faces gets tougher, and reports out of advanced instructs were that he has started driving the ball in the gaps with more frequency.
I am really interested to see how Young’s 2016 season progresses, particularly how his on-base abilities will be tested as he sees more difficult pitches regularly. So far he’s done nothing but hit, enough that I believe he’s at least a solid bench piece. I like his bat’s chances of carrying him through the upper minors into a big league uniform, and I wonder how much the finished product resembles someone like Marco Scutaro.
To date, Young’s power is minuscule. He has 32 doubles, 5 triples, and only 1 HR in 174 games. However, I think the overvaluation of power misses the point of what Young can do for a major league ball club – he hits the ball, puts it in play, and gets on base. He also has decent speed (21 SBs in 2015), and can play multiple positions. To me, if he adds some power, that’s just a bonus.
At the end of the season, Young said his offseason plans included addressing his power differential:
I am going to be attending something new called Advanced Instructs. It’s sort of an All-Star team made up of players from other organizations. Right now, the plan is for me to work on swinging with a little more power and to get stronger.
My opinion is that HR power is nice to have (like it was vs. the Cardinals in the NLDS), but what you really need are guys that can hit the ball in any conditions vs. any kind of pitchers. For example, here are Chesny Young’s stats from last summer vs. the top pitching prospect in the minors, Lucas Giolito.
To me, the ability to hit top pitching is the skill that is needed most. That’s all Chesny Young does.