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Fantasy Roster Advice: Somehow, Michael Young became underrated

I'm just as surprised as you are. Michael Young spent the last few years as perhaps the most overrated player in baseball. But now he's getting overlooked in Philly, and he still has value


Please note that nothing I am saying here, and nothing I am saying on Twitter, is seriously influenced by what has happened so far this season. It's been less than two weeks. If you're drawing conclusions on anything other than health, you're doing it wrong. Also, definitely trade Jason Heyward for Daniel Nava.

That said, please let me recommend Michael Young. Just don't think I'm doing it because he has started .375/.459/.594.

I've mentioned before my Ranger fandom. It is significant. Rangers good, your favorite team bad. Unless your favorite team is also the Rangers, in which case, well-chosen favorite team, Friend. Young was a very good Ranger for a long while, a less good Ranger for a shorter while, and a friggin' awful Ranger for 2012. So the parting memories were not ideal, but all in all, I will always have a fond spot for Mr. Young.

On the other side of the coin, those parting memories were most certainly not ideal. As much love as the mainstream media heaps on Young for his "positive attitude" and the like, he was vocal about his displeasure with the position switches, despite his mediocre-at-best fielding. And - though I'll admit this is a Ron Washington Problem, not a Michael Young Problem - the insistence on giving him at bats during his miserable season last year might have stunted the development of other, potentially better hitters like Mike Olt.

As such, my negative feelings had me targeting Young in no leagues this year. The result of that is that I have four teams of my own and co-own three others, and Young is on none of them. It was absolutely intentional, as he had left enough sour taste in my mouth, and was so awful last year, that I just refused to pull the trigger, and I ranked him low as a result.

I wasn't alone in this. He still has his "great teammate, gritty guy" reputation, but the Guys Who Say Things also pushed him down the fantasy list entering the season. He was ranked low, drafted low in most formats.

Hey, we all make boo-boos.

He's no longer the Michael Young he once was. That much is almost certainly true. But he qualifies (in Yahoo) at first, second, and third base, is nigh-on guaranteed a full season of plate appearances, and, if the Phillies bear even the slightest resemblance to their teams in recent years, he should fall into enough RBI to make his ownership worthwhile.

Young's stats last year were awful. Without question. But without some reason to think he went from "decent, if overrated" to "wishes like crazy he could be as good as Jeff Francouer" at age 35 last year, I don't think we have any choice but to consider 2012 - in which Young had his lowest just-about-everything (BABIP, BA, OBP, SLG, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, walks) since 2002 - an aberration. That BABIP in particular was drastically lower than his norm, which is a good reason to think he might rebound.

Through age 35, the most comparable players to Young (according to Baseball-Refernece) are Ray Durham, Ryne Sandberg, Alan Trammell, and Craig Biggio. That is a group of four players who, did not fare well after age 35. It is a mark against Young, to be sure. On the other hand, those guys by and large faced a logical downward trajectory; none of them found the cliff and just plummeted.

He's never going to be an MVP candidate again (and some of his previous MVP candidacy was spurious at best). But he is also highly unlikely to produce -0.6 OWAR, as he did last year, especially considering you, as only a fantasy owner, don't have to tolerate his abysmal fielding. Assuming he's even a reasonable facsimile of his Rangers glory days with the Phillies, Young is of use. Add in the fact that he qualifies at the always-shallow second base and the shallow-because-the-rest-of-the-guys-have-broken-everything third base, plus the fact that Young has literally never been on the disabled list in 1,832 career games, and he needs to be owned in every league, needs to be started in deeper or NL-only leagues. He won't get significant number in home runs or steals, but his batting average will stay relatively high (even when he was terrible last year, that stayed an empty .277), and there are enough respectable hitters around him that he'll have runs and RBI.

But as I said, this has nothing to do with his hot first week. I'm not touting Chris Davis or Jed Lowrie (they'll be fine; they won't be 2012 Mike Trout) at the same level. I'm just saying that I was wrong about Michael Young a few weeks ago. He got under my skin in 2012, and I let that color my rankings coming into this season. I'm not alone, as he is owned in only about ¾ of Yahoo leagues, even with his eligibility at three positions.

If you're in one of those leagues, Young needs an add. If he's already owned, my guess is his owner is undervaluing him. He's not Miguel Cabrera, but he's not Brandon Inge, either. He's a contributor.

Man, I like Brandon Inge. I didn't plan to dis him. It just happened. Now I feel bad.

Follow me on Twitter @danieltkelley