ERIC BYRNESthought he'd seen a ghost. On a television in the visitors' locker room at SanFrancisco's AT&T Park last Aug. 22, fellow Diamondbacks outfielder ChrisYoung was streaking toward the wall in center in pursuit of a low screamer offthe bat of Randy Winn. His back to home plate, Young leaped for the ball at thelast possible second and made a show-stopping, over-the-shoulder catch.Considering the city and the 24 on the back of Young's uniform, Byrnes'sreaction was understandable. "I said, 'Oh, my God, it's Williereborn!'" recalls the veteran, who had been replaced in center by Youngearlier that inning.
This is an article from the March 26, 2007 issue
Likening any22-year-old to Willie Mays borders on heresy, but that won't be the last timeYoung makes a teammate say hey. With his plate command, power, speed, glove andarm he has already been lavished with that sacred label of the baseballEstablishment: the five-tool player. But for every five-tooler who hasdelivered on the hype (Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr.), there are many more whohave failed (Alex Escobar, Ruben Rivera). "He's polished," says Byrnes,who will move from center to left to make room for Young. "All around, he'spolished."
The White Sox'16th-round pick in 2001 out of Bellaire High in Houston, Young was sounpolished that he spent two seasons in rookie ball. It wasn't until Arizonaacquired him in December 2005 (a four-player deal that sent righthander JavierVazquez to Chicago) that he began to shoot up the prospect lists. Under thetutelage of Triple A hitting coach Lorenzo Bundy, Young reduced his strikeoutsto 83 in '06, from 129 in '05, without sacrificing power: His 21 home runs in402 at bats at Triple A Tucson were roughly on par with his 26 in 466 at batsthe previous season at Double A Birmingham. He also stole a total of 80 basesin his last three seasons in the minors. "I have power, but I'm not tryingto necessarily be a power hitter," says Young, who'll begin the seasonbatting leadoff. "I have speed, but I'm not stealing 100 bases either. Iwould love to be a 30-30 man, but I have to keep working."
Diamondbackshitting coach Kevin Seitzer loves Young's bat speed, particularly his"explosive" swing on inside pitches. "He's got quick hands, a shortstroke and power to all fields," says Seitzer. Young will join high-ceilingprospects Stephen Drew (shortstop) and Carlos Quentin (rightfield) as thelatest of the Baby Backs to be thrown into the lineup as rookies. "You onlysee a handful of them like Chris," says veteran first baseman Tony Clark,who then sounds a cautionary note. "And you also only see a handful of themwho realize their potential."