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Angels Christian Young carving unconventional path towards Major League Debut


ryanmfalla

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The Angels have spent the majority of this off-season shoring up depth behind the incumbent MLB starters after experiencing a 2023 which saw the team fall apart in the stretch due to a number of factors, including lack of top end depth at the Minor League level. Though these may not be the flashy moves we need to wash away the taste of losing Shohei Ohtani they are more than integral in the season long health of a club needing to compete through an entire season. The recent signing of such depth provides a much needed pool of talent to call upon should disaster strike (as it usually does for the Angels), and with a fresh new coaching staff in place there is a legitimate chance these minor league signings can find themselves producing big league outs at some point through 2024. One such signing would be 2023 American Association All-Star RHP Christian Young, a 27 year old RHP coming out of indyball and into the Angels off the hottest stretch of his career. For fans the signing of Christian Young may come across as simple minor league depth, but for Christian Young, this is a dream ready to come true. Coming into the organization at 27, Young now stands with a clear path towards his long dreamt of Major League debut after an arduous journey that included multiple seasons of junior college ball, two unsigned trips through the MLB draft, and three years in indyball. There are few clubs that can offer as clear a path to the Major Leagues as the Angels, and though this comes at great pain to the fanbase it creates excellent opportunities for those on the fringes looking for a way into the game. It may be a long path to the Majors, but for Christian Young, that path becomes far shorter with his foot now firmly in the Angels doorway. Some fans would hope the durability of our Major League bullpen would keep the team from dipping into minor league depth, but for others such as Christian Young and myself, there is little else more exciting than seeing the long awaited dream come true for someone who refused to give up.

Young-Milkmen.webp“I really enjoyed my time in Indie Ball with Milwaukee, it's such a great place. I think it’s a good place to really figure out who you are as a player. Being in Milwaukee the last few seasons really helped develop me into the pitcher that I am today. I'd like to continue starting, but I'm gonna try and help whatever team I'm on, in any role they decide is best for me. If I can keep a strong head on my shoulders, go out there and compete every pitch, everything will stay good and locked into place.”

Young has spent the last three seasons of his professional career as a member of the Milwaukee Milkmen, an independent baseball team out of the American Association, as they amassed an overall 168-150 record during his time with the team. His professional baseball journey began in 2021 as he joined the Milwaukee Milkmen out of Mercyhurst University, initially working as a reliever through his first year before the Padres signing of Milkmen starter Jose Espada opened a spot in the rotation. This would prove massively beneficial to the upward trajectory of Youngs career as his strikeout rate rose from a 9.5 K/9 over 17 IP in 2021 to 11.3 as a starter in 2022 (76 IP). His 2023 season would see his positive growth trend towards a career high 94.1 IP, striking out 110 through this span. This Major League quality workload would see Young earn himself a much deserved All-Star selection within the American Association. His 170.1 innings of work over the last two years is certainly enough to ensure he will hit the ground running when it comes to the mental and physical load of tackling a Major League level workload.

“I was down in Puerto Rico for the last two months playing for the Cangrejeros de Santurce. We got a lot of coaches there with connections, a lot of good big name players on that team. Before one of my starts one of our coaches [Joel Jobel] told me ‘Hey man, I just wanna make sure it's ok that I gave your name to the Angels.’ He told me to keep doing my thing and good things will come. Two starts later he let me know  the Angels would be in contact pretty soon. Sure enough ..like a week later they ended up calling me and offering me a contract. It's a very thrilling feeling because I was drafted twice six and seven years ago and I never took it.

In the past 6-7 years it's been tough mentally wondering if I'll ever get that opportunity back. I'm very grateful for everybody this last year that's helped me get this opportunity.”

If Youngs time with the Milkmen was an indicator of his potential, his most recent winter ball season with the Cangrejeros de Santurce was the stamp on his budding stock. Young dominated the competition this past winter with 30 strikeouts across 23.2 IP of 2.28 ERA baseball while walking just three hitters. There are few indicators of big league potential that are as trustworthy as the ability to control the strike zone, a talent Young possesses in spades. His repertoire comes ready for the Major League call with a mid 90’s fastball (topped out at 97mph) backed by a secondary featuring a curve/slider/change-up, all of which Young employs with command and effectiveness. His ability to back up his fastball with general above-average control will bring Young to a running start as he heads towards Minor League competition.

"I throw a four seam fastball, a curveball, a change-up, and a slider. I've been using the curveball more than the slider lately and I've been able to develop that pitch a lot more. I'm definitely a fastball dominant pitcher, pitching off the fastball is a very effective way to go deep into games. If you can go out there and dominate with just a fastball it opens up so much more opportunity for your off speed pitches later in the game.

349625998_101078213009937_215887965729777482_n-1024x683 (1).jpgYoung was undeniably one of the best pitchers in the Puerto Rican Winter League this past season across multiple categories. Only three pitchers across the six team league featured higher strikeout rates than Young with at least 20IP [Ricardo Velez (12 K/9 21.2 IP), Brent Teller (12.6 K/9 20IP), Endrys Briceno (13.9 K/9 20.2IP)] and of those three with higher K/9s, Christian Young had the best walk rate with a 1.1 BB/9. By all accounts Christian Young was one of the most effective pitchers in the PRWL through his time with Santurce. His present command ability should allow for the Angels to produce a pitcher capable of getting Major League outs, at this point it appears the onus is on the Angels to bring the proper developmental guidance needed to bring Young closer to a vaunted Major League debut.

I have seen an increase in velocity this last year, I think that stems from not just this past summer, but two summers ago. In Milwaukee they decided to use me as a one inning guy. Go out there and throw the ball as hard as you can, compete and attack batters. That year we ended up having a starting pitcher get signed to the Padres [Jose Spada]. I was the next guy in line to take a starting role. Going right into a starting role from that one inning role helps me keep that mindset of going out there and taking one inning at a time, just leaving it all out there. I think the increase in velocity with that mindset has really helped me not be afraid of any hitters, just go out there and attack and compete.”

Whether the Angels will have any real impact on his growth is yet to be seen, but as is there is a very real, raw quality pitcher waiting to be tapped into. It will be up to the organization to show their developmental teeth and refine his best qualities into a form that is capable of fulfilling a “next man up” role should it come to pass. It may not be the most glamorous role in sports, but there are few roles as necessary as such. This may not be apparent on Opening Day, but come the dog days of August we will again see the importance of talent on call to soak up big league innings.

They always say the sky is the limit for those who believe, but with Christian Young’s effectiveness backing up his aspirations there is more to his journey than just belief.

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