The Washington Nationals signed right-handed starter Chris Young this week to a minor league deal in an effort to add more depth to a pitching staff that is already the deepest in baseball.
Young, 33, started 20 games for the New York Mets last season, marking the first time he had managed to pitch 100-or-more innings since 2008. The six-foot-ten hurler posted a 4-9 record with a 4.15 ERA overall for the Mets, not a bad total considering the former All-Star had failed to make more than four starts in either 2010 or 2011.
At one point, Young was considered one of the more promising young starters in the game. In just his second full Major League season he posted an 11-5 record with a 3.46 ERA in 179.1 innings pitched. That performance helped him earn an All-Star nod, representing the San Diego Padres. The next year he posted a 9-8 record for San Diego while recording a 3.12 ERA in 173 innings pitched.
Unfortunately. A subsequent series of arm injuries forced him to miss the better part of the next four seasons.
The good news is that despite his imposing frame, Young has never at any point in his career thrown what anyone would consider hard. Even in 2006, at the age of 27, Young’s fastball averaged just 89.0 miles per hour. That’s extremely slow for any right hander, much less one that had logged just 380 total Major League innings. In 2012 his fastball was one of the slowest in the majors, averaging just 84.6 miles per hour. That would be a death sentence for most pitchers but the fact that his fastball velocity had dropped just over four miles an hour made the adjustment relatively minor.
What’s yet to be seen, however, is whether Young will be the next Zach Duke, a former All-Star the Nats took a flyer on and turned into a valuable asset...or if he will be the next Brad Lidge, a former star that Washington took a chance on in the bullpen but had to let go of early on in 2012. Like Lidge, though, there is little to no risk here for Washington. Young will not be asked to fill a rotation spot. The Nats will only look upon him to make emergency spot starts if he is healthy.
Nats GM Mike Rizzo has been all about organizational depth since Day 1 at his reigns in Washington, and Young is a prototypical Rizzoian no-risk, high reward, diamond in the rough.