The Case For Jacob Young

An under-the-radar player, Jacob Young has been a joy to watch begin his big-league career thus far. Although he may never be a star, or even a full-time starter, players like Young can energize a lackluster roster.
Washington Nationals v Oakland Athletics
Washington Nationals v Oakland Athletics / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

Who doesn’t love a superstar? Players like Juan Soto, Trea Turner, and Anthony Rendon get the people out of their seats, with their consistency and big moments keeping fans waiting for what’s next. There is nothing better than witnessing a monster run like Kyle Schwarber had years ago, not missing a single at-bat and being glued to your seat for every pitch.

If you have read any of my articles, you know I am a fan of the underdog. Soto and Turner are my favorite players, but it's always important to appreciate the little guy. Two of my favorite players growing up were Rick Ankiel, because of his incredible story of transitioning from a promising young pitcher with the yips to a gold glove caliber outfielder, and Zach Walters, because I remember following him as a little kid through our minor league system to the big leagues.

With this being said, a current National is starting to pique my underdog interest. Jake Alu was a fun story, and I was hoping he would take advantage of the shot he got last year, but he may never get a chance again. I was also the lead conductor for the Carter Kieboom comeback train, but it never left the station. Now, I think I found my new guy. A young man by the name of Jacob Young.

It is no secret how poor our drafting and player development has been in recent years. Many prospects have fizzled out quickly in our minor league system, but it is encouraging to see players like Jacob Young and Trey Lipscomb make it up to the big league fairly quickly. Young was a 7th-round pick out of Florida in 2021, batting .330 with a .847 OPS in 131 collegiate games from 2019-2021. After being placed in Fredericksburg to begin his career, the speedy outfielder struggled from 2021-2022, having an OPS under .700, and being a below-average bat his first two seasons in low A. With little to no expectations entering 2022, Young made a remarkable climb to the big leagues.

Jacob Young
Florida v Arkansas / Wesley Hitt/GettyImages

After finally picking up the pace offensively after starting in High A in 2022, Young was promoted to Double-A after 56 games, then promoted to Triple-A after 52 games. Young’s wRC+ was now over 120 in the minor leagues and paired with his elite glove and baserunning, he earned himself a promotion to the big leagues to end the season.

With his remarkable rise from High-A to the big leagues in one season, Young started 33 games for the Nats down the stretch, slashing .250/.323/.321 for an 82 wRC+. Young did not necessarily come close to setting the world on fire similar to Kyle Schwarber, but he provided solid play from an unexpected contributor. His glove and baserunning were so elite that he registered 0.9 fWAR, putting him on pace for a fWAR above 4 if he were to have played a full season.

Young was projected to make the 26-man roster coming into the season before the signing of Eddie Rosario. Young started the campaign in Triple-A but quickly found himself back on the roster after Victor Robles was hurt once again. The 6'0 180 pound centerfielder has put up similar product to his 2023 season so far, slashing .250/.323/.321 for a 82 wRC+ and 5 steals through his first 9 games, also scoring 5 runs. He is also a perfect 18 for 18 on stolen base attempts to begin his career. The all-time record to begin a career without being caught stealing is 26.

Young will never be an All-Star, and he will not give us the joy or production that Trea Turner or Juan Soto did, but he will show up every single day and play as hard, and as smart, as he can. Having players like Jacob Young will always be a breath of fresh air, especially with watching players like Victor Robles and having to resist the urge to pull every hair follicle out of your scalp. I will always root for guys like Jacob Young and hope we have more guys like him and Trey Lipscomb, to pair up with potential superstars like CJ Abrams and James Wood as we make our way back up to the top.