Due to his recent success, Mariners pitcher Chris Young is the most-added pitcher in Fantasy baseball over the past week. He saw his ownership percentage skyrocket from 28 percent to 59 percent in CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues.
Young is still available in my dynasty league, and considering he turned 35 near the end of May, he certainly isn't a viable long-term asset in the league. But is this 2014 breakout real, and can he really help owners pushing for a title?
Let's look at his recent success and consider whether he's truly found a new gear. Young struck out a season-high eight batters and walked just one on July 2 while giving up two earned runs in seven innings. He only surrendered two hits to the Astros, and both went for home runs. That last sentence is Young's recent stretch in a microcosm: poor offensive opponent, unsustainable BABIP, home run troubles.
Before that first outing of July, Young managed to hold the opposition to two earned runs in 18 innings over a three-game stretch. Opposing teams managed just 11 hits in those three games, with one of them going for another solo home run. Like he did in his most recent start, Young walked just one batter in each of his last three outings of June.
While his improved walk rate gives his new owners reason for hope, he comes with many more red flags. First, the competition. Young faced just one above average offense over his last four games, with three of his opponents ranking in the bottom third of the majors in OPS.
Second, and more importantly, the BABIP. Young turned in a .000 BABIP in his last game, with his only two hits allowed both clearing the outfield fence. As an extreme flyball pitcher, Young is used to beating the league BABIP average, but his performance in the category this season is outlandish even for his typical standards. He owns a .203 BABIP, and when coupled with a poor strikeout rate (5.0 per nine innings) and middling walk rate (3.4 per nine innings), it appears Young is due for a severe regression.
The Mariners pitcher has posted a 3.11 ERA this season, but his 5.00 FIP and 5.38 xFIP both give you a much more honest portrayal of his performance. The projection system ZiPS has Young posting a 5.61 ERA over the remainder of the season. Steamer, another projection system, isn't much kinder.
I haven't even mentioned the fact that he might be out of a rotation spot soon. The Mariners could definitely be looking to push some chips into the middle of the pot during July by acquiring another potential rotation arm. Even if that doesn't happen, Young could still get removed from the rotation when James Paxton is ready to return. I'd put Young sixth at best among the Mariners' starting pitchers, which is one short of keeping a starting role if he doesn't continue to defy the odds.
Any Fantasy owners lucky enough to own Young have received excellent production over the last few weeks. However, the chances that it lasts are small. Anyone with Young should be looking to sell high -- seeing how much his ownership has risen over the past week, there's certainly a market for his services. Anyone looking at Young in free agency should stay away. Be careful; this is a clear fakeout brewing.