Oakland Athletics: With Coco Crisp Out, What to do With Center Field?

By Karl Buscheck
Chris Young
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, Chris Young has been expensive bust. As a reserve, though, Young’s struggles have been more annoying than detrimental to the success of the Oakland Athletics.

However, as Coco Crisp remains sidelined with a sore right wrist, which has apparently been affecting him for at least six weeks, Young’s struggles suddenly becomes quite important. In 78 games as an Athletic, Young is hitting .192 with 10 bombs, 74 strike outs, 49 hits and .659 OPS. That’s not exactly the production the club was anticipating when GM Billy Beane brought in the outfielder who makes $8.5 million on the season.

Then again, in 2012, Young’s numbers weren’t much different, and he’s also moved from the hitter-friendly Chase Field to the spacious O.co Coliseum. Then the center fielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Young hit .231 with 14 jacks and a .745 OPS while playing in 101 games during an injury-shortened season.

In 2011, Young swatted 20 home runs as he appeared in 156 games, but he hit just .236 on the season with a .751 OPS. Back in 2010, Young enjoyed arguably his best season as an  MLB player, hitting 27 home runs and batting .257. The center fielder was named to the NL All-Star team that season, and even competed in the Home Run Derby.

The point is, Young is doing exactly what he’s always done: hitting for low average while providing his fair share of power.

Perhaps Crisp will be back atop the lineup as the Athletics take on the Houston Astros at the Coliseum tonight. If not, the team might need to lean a bit more heavily on the stirrup-wearing outfielder. Fortunately for Young, pretty much the only times that he has excelled in 2013 have been against the Astros and when he’s leading off.

There are other options for the Athletics in center field, though.  Jemile Weeks, once the second baseman of the future, was back out in center field for the River Cats last night. The 26-year-old burner, who started learning the outfield earlier this season, has quietly had a very strong campaign in Triple-A.

Weeks has substantially improved his approach at the plate, as he is second in walks, only to Daric Barton, in the Pacific Coast League. He’s also been making excellent use of his speed, as he’s laced nine triples and is 16 for 18 on stolen base attempts.

Reports on his outfield defense, however, have been mixed. Just last month, a writer at the Sacramento Bee told me flat out that Weeks isn’t a center fielder. Nonetheless, the experiment lives on, and perhaps it will prove the path back to the big leagues for the flyer.

Yet another option would be to move Gold Glove right fielder Josh Reddick to center. There’s no reason to mess with Reddick’s amazing play in right, but he certainly has the arm and the instincts to handle center. In fact, Reddick has one of the best first steps in all of baseball.

His bat, which, admittedly is suddenly surging, would play better in center field, as well. Brandon Moss could slide out to right, the club could pull up Michael Choice from Triple-A, or a corner bat could be snagged off the waiver wire.

The easiest solution? The return of Crisp.

Karl Buscheck is an Oakland Athletics writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @KarlBuscheck and add him to your network on Google.  

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