Second-baseman Chesny Young reached base five times Tuesday night as the Tennessee Smokies closed out a sweep of a five-game road series at Mobile against the D’Backs’ AA franchise. Young raised his BA to .382 and nudged his OPS up over 1 to 1.035, third best in the Southern League. He will never lead the league in slugging but his .321 BA in 2015 did net him the Carolina League batting crown; and this was at the end of a long first-full season: his BA stood at .337 as late as August 1. No other player in the league ended the year above .297.
Young is one of thirteen members of the Tennessee roster (fourteen when pitching ace Duane Underwood finishes a brief rehab assignment in Mesa) who formed the nucleus of championship teams at Kane County in 2014 and Myrtle Beach last year. Nine current Smokies are listed among the Cubs’ thirty top prospects according to MLB Pipeline at mlb.com. Young is not on the list.
To me, the most interesting prospects at Tennessee are Young, Zagunis, Brockmeyer and manager Mark Johnson. Zagunis is a righty-hitting outfielder with a slugger’s build who is simply the walking-est man in the organization. He had 80 walks at Myrtle Beach last season, against 86 K’s. At Mesa in the Arizona Fall League he had 19 walks in 66 plate appearances, with the result that his OBP of .455 looks like a typo, sitting 221 points above his .234 BA.
The reasons for my interest in Brockmeyer are detailed here. Johnson managed Kane County and Myrtle Beach to their recent championships, and gets bumped up a level each time he wins a trophy. Paul Sullivan has described the former White Sox catcher as “on a path to becoming a major league manager after winning back-to-back titles with two different affiliates.” This is how managers get fast-tracked.
But Young is a bat-handling specialist, as Johnson is quick to note.
“He is a professional hitter with only a couple of years of professional baseball under his belt,” Smokies manager Mark Johnson said. “He has quality at-bats day-in and day-out. He has the ability to manipulate the barrel and get it on the ball like you don’t see very often. There’s only a few people that can do that on a nightly basis. He’s a very gifted young man who has a good head on his shoulders.”
I don’t recall a Cub prospect before Young whose batting average sits comfortably in the .340-.350 range in late July. Young’s minor-league slash line at all levels is .327/.402/.404(/.806). He needs to improve the third number, the SLG, in order to boost the fourth number, the OPS. It’s a small 2016 data sample, but he does have 2 doubles, a triple and 2 home runs in 26 hits, which yields a gaudy SLG so far. The table below is the minor-league slashes of current major-league second basemen, a set of numbers we can compare with Chesny Young’s as he progresses through his double-A season and gets closer, rather quickly, to the Cubs.
(I note that Young is third behind Zobrist and LaStella–coincidence?–for OBP and tied for first with Altuve for BA; but he is last in SLG if you disregard Theriot and Cedeno, two relics of a forgettable era.)