Chavez Young burst onto the prospect radar last season with a power-speed flourish, becoming the only player in all of minor league baseball with 50+ extra base hits and 40 stolen bases.
Promoted to Dunedin from Lansing last year, Young had some difficulty making the adjustment to the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, and after slashing .231/.282/.359 for the first half, he knew he had to improve his approach if he wanted to produce results more in line with his physical talents:
The biggest difference (from the first to the second half) has been my approach…what I’m looking for at the plate, and my situational hitting…..just being locked in, trying to help my team pitch-by-pitch, and on defence as well.
The 2016 39th round pick found himself in a lot of Pitcher’s counts early in the season, and Young had to force himself to stop expanding his strike zone, and for the most part it’s worked, has he’s dropped his K rate from 27 to 22%, while posting a second half line of .270/.321/.362, which included a career-high 14-game hitting streak. It was a learning process, Young admits:
Pitchers know how to pitch in the Florida State League….they know how to mix in their off speed pitches, especially in hitter’s counts, so I really had to learn to adjust to that.
While the changes Young has made have largely been in terms of his approach, he does admit that he’s backed off the plate a little bit. Otherwise, there has been little in terms of mechanical changes.
I’m looking for something to drive….every time I swing, it’s with intent, and I’m trying to do damage. I’m just trying to contribute and be a leader.
Sometimes, a player will change his approach by looking for certain pitches in certain parts of the strike zone. Other times, it will be an adjustment with his swing – this was the case for Young, who went from looking to loft the ball to getting back to a swing that was more line drive in nature, which is what allowed him to be so successful in Lansing.
Young is quick to spread credit to his teammates, especially a departed one:
We had a great lead off hitter in Cal Stevenson, and now that I’ve taken his spot in the batting order, I’m trying to be just like him – get on base, be a leader, do whatever it takes to help the team win.
For his part, Dunedin Hitting Coach Matt Young, who worked with Chavez at Lansing last year, agrees that much of his turnaround can be attributed to a better approach at the plate:
Chavy’s 2nd half is just a result of a guy who trusted his work and made some good adjustments after the first half. He got back to being more athletic in the box and is trusting himself a little more. His lower half is working like it did last year and that’s the key for him. He’s trusting his eyes and his moves and he’s definitely showing the league what he’s capable of.
You could forgive any of the Dunedin Blue Jays for having sub-par years because with the renovations going on at the former Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, the D-Jays have led a peripatetic existence. They get dressed for games at the Stadium, then make the short bus ride to Jack Russell Stadium, the former home of the Phillies for their home games. They even had to move a make up double header to the minor league complex, a place that’s off limits to fans due to construction there as well. But Young says that’s not a crutch for the D-Jays:
We don’t use it as an excuse. We get to play the game we love every day, so it doesn’t matter if it’s home or away, we want to play to Win…..we just think about playing for each other and have fun.
And speaking of having fun, it appears Young and the D-Jays are doing just that. Despite having been temporarily displaced from their home park, Dunedin won the first half of the FSL Northern Division by 5.5 games, and qualified for the playoffs. They lead the second half as well, and their 71-49 record is the second best in the loop. Dunedin leads the league in batting average, OBP, and runs, and are among the leaders in several team pitching categories. Even though players such as Stevenson, Cullen Large, Nate Pearson, Joey Murray, Riley Adams, and Brad Wilson have moved on, the D-Jays still have one of the top pitching staffs in the league, as well as a dangerous 1-6 batting order with players like Young, Alejandro Kirk, and Ryan Noda.
As far as developmental goals for the year, Young lists several he feels he’s in the process of meeting:
I had to make a lot of adjustments in playing at a higher level. I had to learn to trust myself. I also wanted to become a smarter runner on the base paths, and make better decisions in the Outfield….knowing where to throw to in each situation.
The one issue the switch-hitting Young is had this year is his RHP/LHP differential, with a .261 average against righties, but only a .189 mark against southpaws. For Young, it’s more of a matter of more experience than anything:
It’s just reps….it’s hard when you’re not seeing lefties as much. It’s like your right-handed swing is coming off the bench. When I get more reps, I’m sure it will even out – about 70-80% of my At Bats have been against left handers. I just need to see more of them.
With the playoffs coming, Young is focused on finishing on a high note:
I’m just concentrating on finishing the regular season strong, and heading into the playoffs with a lot of momentum.