Texas Ten: Michael Young's role in 2013?

October, 14, 2012
10/14/12
10:00
PM CT
Editor's Note: We'll spend the next two weeks taking a look at 10 questions that face the Texas Rangers this offseason as they prepare for the 2013 campaign. We call it our "Texas Ten."

Today's question: What is Michael Young's role in 2013?

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Ben tells the blindly loyal Michael Young fan club why they're doing it wrong and why they're also underestimating Young's professionalism and character.

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Michael Young turns 36 on Oct. 19 and has one year remaining on his contract with the Rangers. He'll make $16 million in 2013, coming off the worst statistical year of his career.

Young hit .277 with eight homers and 67 RBIs. The batting average was his lowest in any full season in the majors (he did hit .249 as a rookie in 2001, when he played 106 games). The eight home runs were the fewest he hit in his career. The 67 RBIs are the fewest he's had since 2002, his first full year in the big leagues. Young had 38 extra-base hits, again his fewest for any full season of his career. To put that in perspective, Young had 41 doubles in 2011.

Interestingly, as the club's offense diminished the final month of the season, Young had one of his best months. He hit .301 with three homers and 13 RBIs. It was his first month of batting .265 or better since April.

Young was the team's primary designated hitter in 2012, but he also played the field a bunch, logging 16 games at second, 25 games at third and 41 games at first. Manager Ron Washington wanted to keep Young engaged in the field and made a point to do that. Then, when the club needed Young to fill in for various injuries, he was able to do that.

Young's versatility is certainly an asset, but as a backup. Young was the utility infielder as Washington trusted one of his clubhouse leaders and continued to play him even when Jurickson Profar was called up.

Some of you have wondered about trading Young. First, he has 10-5 rights, which means he must approve any trade. But I'm not sure what trading him accomplishes in 2013. The Rangers would still have to pay the majority of Young's salary because at $16 million, he's overpaid. Why not just pay that, have Young on your team and in the clubhouse and then make a decision after 2013?

[+] EnlargeMichael Young
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireMichael Young's versatility and leadership is valuable to the Rangers, but at what price?
But if Young is here, what is the proper role for him? He had 611 at-bats in 2012 and has had at least 541 in every season since 2002. The numbers from last season point toward a more limited role. It doesn't make sense for him to play that much again in 2013. Young had a .312 OBP. Among players with at least 600 at-bats, only four players had a lower OBP than Young. He had a .370 slugging percentage. Only one player with more than 600 at-bats (Dustin Ackley) had a lower slugging percentage. Young's WAR number, a stat that you can see now on ESPN.com's regular stat page for each player, was -2.4. That's by far the worst of his career. He was 2.1 in 2011.

Young could certainly continue in his role as utility infielder and part-time DH, but do it with fewer at-bats. That's a tough thing to do to a veteran who has given the club so much. But as they look to integrate some younger players into the lineup, that's a logical choice. Of course, exactly what Young does will depend on what this club does in the offseason and what spots they fill.

Washington believes in Young and for good reason -- the veteran's track record is one of consistency. But he did not show the gap power that he's had in previous seasons and didn't hit overall at the level he's used to.

Is now the time for Young to be a guy that comes off the bench to give infielders a break once or twice a week and then fills in at DH based on the pitching matchups? Is that fair or do you think Young will bounce back in 2013 and should be given a chance to be an everyday player again?

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Adrian Beltre
BA HR RBI R
.324 19 77 79
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Beltre 19
RBIA. Beltre 77
RA. Beltre 79
OPSA. Beltre .879
WC. Lewis 10
ERAC. Lewis 5.18
SOY. Darvish 182