On December 20, 2005 the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired right-handed pitchers Orlando Hernandez and Luis Vizcaino and outfielder Chris Young from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for right-handed pitcher Javier Vazquez and cash considerations. At the time the trade was designed to allow Vazquez to leave Arizona. He wanted to pitch on the east coast but was willing to accept a trade to Chicago.
The Diamondbacks were giving up their then ace for a back of the rotation starter, a reliever, and a highly touted outfield prospect. Young would start the 2006 season in Tucson playing for the Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders. He would put together an all-star season and would be called up to the big leagues on August 18, 2006.
Young made an immediate impact for the Diamondbacks and began the 2007 season as the D-backs starting center fielder. As a rookie Young would become the first rooking in baseball history to hit 30 home runs and steal at least 25 bases. For the first time since the departure of Steve Finley the Diamondbacks had a bona fide centerfielder who could not only hit but had speed and defense.
While Young continued to show signs of power, there was another aspect of his game that rose more than a few eyebrows. During his rookie season Young struck out 141 times in 569 plate appearances. Many suggested this could be attributed to youth and with a little experience at the major league level those strikeouts would diminish.
In 2008 Young struck out 165 times in 625 at bats. His on-base percentage rose but his slugging percentage dropped. Despite the step backwards the Diamondbacks rewarded their centerfielder with a long-term contract. Young put a lot of pressure on himself as a result of this contract and in 2009 had his worst season of his career offensively. It was so bad that the Diamondbacks sent him to Triple-A just to try and clear his mind.
After a horrendous 2009 Young bounced back in 2010 in route to representing the Arizona Diamondbacks as their only all-star that season. Even though he was hitting much better the strikeout totals continued to rise.
When Kevin Towers became the Diamondbacks General Manager he vowed to change the lineup to eliminate some of the strikeout totals that plagued the team in 2010. Gone were third baseman Mark Reynolds and first baseman Adam LaRoche who both finished among the leaders in strikeouts. This helped but Arizona was still among the leaders in team strikeouts.
In the midst of a pennant chase Towers sent starting second baseman Kelly Johnson to Toronto. In an interview shortly after the trade Johnson stated that the one thing Towers detests more than anything was strikeouts.
Young finished the 2011 season with 139, which lead the team in that category. The question becomes, will Towers continue to accept this high total or are Young’s days with the Diamondbacks numbered?
During the recent FanFest, Towers was asked about the farm system. He gave a glowing report on several positions including outfielder AJ Pollack whom Towers said was knocking at the door. He talked about Pollack’s defense and his ability to get on base.
In 2009 Pollack struck out just 36 times in 255 at bats in Single-A South Bend. After missing the 2010 season with an injury Pollack went to Double-A Mobile where he struckout just 86 times in 608 plate appearances against some very good pitching. In his minor league career he has played 189 games at centerfield and just 5 in right.
If Young struggles or if his strikeout total continues to mount don’t be surprised if Towers begins entertaining offers to move his centerfielder. Hopefully another season of hitting coach Don Baylor’s tutelage will help Young shorten his swing otherwise he may find himself being shipped elsewhere for the right deal.