Young was feeling old
Not a lot, mind you, but it's important to remember that his 2012 campaign - .277 average, eight home runs and 67 RBIs in 651 plate appearances - has or will have turned off most fantasy owners. I participated in a 15-team, 23-round mock draft last week, and - I think, but have trouble believing - Michael Young went undrafted. (It fell a few days before Young agreed to join the Philadelphia Phillies, to be fair, I guess. I didn't even notice him slip.)
Young's qualification at only first base and third base in most leagues is a bit of a drawback. It's reasonable to think that he could gain eligibility at second base, eventually, although it's not very likely.
But in a way it'll be nice for him that he doesn't have to worry about playing all four infield positions and even wonder if he'll be in the lineup that day. He seems resigned and at the same time hopeful of what could be in the City of Brotherly Love.
Young, 36, made a choice that's much likelier to help his candidacy in free agency after the 2013 season. Texas wasn't going to present that opportunity, in all likelihood. He doesn't seem ready to retire in a year, and he pretty obviously will be unhappy without playing time.
The decline in Young's performance this past season looks kind of like that of Alex Rios in 2011 and many others whose rates of contact and have steadily increased as they've aged. Accompanying Young's is a healthy-looking line-drive rate, which might lead one to conclude that he's still a reliable source of batting average and that his .299 average on balls in play is "to blame" for his outcomes.
The 12-year vet swung at more pitches outside the strike zone and made contact with them more frequently, so the greater rate of balls he put in play didn't give him much chance to reach base safely. For roughly the first two-thirds of the season, he was pretty much a pull hitter, and anything away was doing him in. Basically, Young received a failing grade in "controlling the strike zone."
Of course, the infielder hasn't been a reliable source of power at any point in his career. He has produced just four seasons of 20-plus ding dongs, so if he doesn't hit for average to drive in runs and then eventually score some, he's not going to do a fantasy owner much good. The change of home venue - from The Ballpark in Arlington to Citizens Bank Park - is a pretty big con for right-handed hitters.
Young's plate discipline improved in the season's final couple of months, as Ron Washington stuck with him amid a heavy barrage of questions about the veteran's job security. (Why did they call up Mike Olt, then?) The punchless Young slugged .838 in September and had regained his comfort with driving the ball the other way. He waited some pitchers out. It seemed like a minor miracle. Of course, he played in only one postseason contest, going 2-for-4 with a couple of base-knocks.
No one is going to predict a $20 Young, but there's no reason to think that he won't be a productive player in Philly. It's hard not to be with 700 plate appearances, likely in a top-half lineup spot, for an aged - yet still above-average - batting order. And in some cases, almost everything he generates may be profit. If it's not, kick him to the curb.