Ever since the departure of Scott Rolen in the middle of the 2002 season, the Philadelphia Phillies have tried just about everything to find a solid third baseman. Sadly, a lot of those attempts have come up empty. Now the team will see if 2013 is any different.
Enter Michael Young, another elder statesman on an already aging team. At 36, Young is coming off arguably the worst year in his career, hitting .277/.312/.370. He hit just eight home runs and drove in 67, and now has to move to third base, away from his comfortable designated hitter spot he had in the American League.
It’s easy to be skeptical in Philadelphia, but that would actually be an upgrade over Placido Polanco, who had a .657 OPS over the past two seasons. He also endured multiple injuries that kept him off the field quite a bit. So, will Young actually be an upgrade for the Phillies?
All signs point to no. His defense at third has been highly criticized, and he started just 25 games there last year. Obviously, another major question right now for the Phillies is whether or not they can even expect a full season at third from Young. At the very least, he will likely have to be replaced late in games defensively, as his glove does not do him any favors.
His Ultimate Zone Rating last season was -4.8, which would have been the fifth worst number had he played 700 innings at the position. It’s likely, however, that he would have posted a number much worse than that had he accumulated more innings. Players who struggle that much defensively usually need an incredible bat to make up for their troubles. The problem is, Young did not provide that bat last season. He has done it before, but the Phillies will see if he can do it again.
The good news for the Phillies is that the Rangers picked up $10 million of the $16 million owed to him in 2013. With prospect Cody Asche waiting in the wings, a strong year from him could push Young right out the door. Right now, it’s hard to envision Young being anything more than a one-year stopgap for the Phillies at third base. If he performs the way he did last year at the plate and is a butcher in the field as well, he might not even make it through the entire season as the Phillies’ starter at third.