- 1B, 3B, LF, OF, RF, DH
- June 16, 1969
- 6' 3"
- 210 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 7-12-1992 with PIT
Part of the trio of rookies counted on to develop into stardom and return the Pirates to the post season following the team’s three playoff failures in the early 1990’s, Kevin Young turned out to have the most significant career of the three for the Pirates despite not having appeared in a playoff game.
Young had been a third baseman in the minor leagues, but had problems defensively. Despite his fielding difficulties, Young’s line drive bat moved him through the minors quickly and in his third professional season was named the International League’s Rookie of the Year in 1992 as he hit .314 and led the league with 91 runs scored. Brought up to the Bucs for a couple of games in the middle of the year and again at the end of the season, Young went 4-for-7 with a pair of walks. Although several of the Pirate stars left or were traded after the season, one who remained was third baseman Jeff King, not only a power threat but a fine defensive player as well. Jim Leyland and his staff decided to try Young at first and Young, blessed with more range than most firstbasemen as well as quick hands, impressed. He not only showed agility around the bag, but set a new team record while leading the league with a .998 fielding average. But Young’s offense, figured to be his strength, disappointed. He had a big, looping swing and whilehe seemed to be able to handle breaking balls, Young had trouble getting around on major league fastballs. He hit just .236, but this was a noted improvement from the .196 mark which showed next to his name on the scoreboard on June
Young’s improved hitting was enough to help him return in 1994, but when he got off to a poor start once again, he was sent to AAA Buffalo. He bounced back and forth between the two teams, hitting just .205 with one homerun with the big club.
Young failed to make the team in spring training, 1995, and went to AAA once again. The Pirates had moved their affiliation to Calgary and Young got off to a torrid start, batting .356 with eight homeruns in 45 games. With King no longer wanting to play third, Young was recalled and saw most of his action that year at the hot corner. He showed improved power, but continued to strike out too often and his batting average once again was disappointing. Failing to impress enough to make the team in 1996, Young, still only 26, was released near the end of spring training. He was signed to a minor league contract by the Kansas City Royals and after again posting strong AAA numbers was recalled, but once more, Young failed to hit .250 in the major leagues. Ironically, King, along with Jay Bell was traded to the Royals after 1996 and Young’s fate was again negatively effected by his presence as the Royals released him. With the situation in Pittsburgh having drastically changed in the course of eight months, General Manager Cam Bonifay signed Young to yet another minor league deal with an invitation to spring training for Although he hit just .214 with a pair of homers in Florida, Young’s experience and versatility helped him make the team.
Young hit well from the start of the season and soon pushed slumping first baseman Mark Johnson to the bench. After hitting over .300the first three months, he upped his offensive output to .337 with 26 rbi’s in 28 games in July and Young was leading the surprising Central Division Contenders in homeruns and rbi’s as well as batting .316 when he injured his thumb diving for a ball on August 2. The injury shelved him for more than a month, taking the team’s best hitter out of the lineup. As the Pirates appeared to waste opportunities while Young was out, the ballplayer’s frustration grew. Just prior to his being pronounced able to return to the lineup, Young engaged in a clubhouse tirade after the Pirates had dropped a difficult 3-2 decision to the Cubs on September 14. The next night, Young hit a tenth inning homerun to win the game in his first at bat since the injury. Although the outburst and game winning homerun gave the team a needed jolt, Young’s injury greatly effected his hitting the final two weeks of the season and the team was unable to catch the Astros.
Now viewed as a team leader, Young set career highs in almost every offensive category in 1998. His average fell off to .270, but he drove in 108 runs and hit 27 homers, in the process becoming the first Pirate since Willie Stargell in 1973 to drive in 100 while hitting 25 homeruns and 40 doubles in the same season. He also continued to impress defensively, but a cold September prevented him from posting higher numbers. The Pirates, though, appreciated his hard play and saw him as a player who could be a cornerstone of the rebuilding franchise and he was signed to a four-year, $24 million contract extension through 2003.
Young made the investment look good in 1999, again smacking 25 homeruns, 40 doubles and knocking in 100 runs. He also stole 23 bases and scored over 100 runs for the first time in his career. Strangely, however, he had a poor year defensively, committing 23 errors, many coming on throws to secondbase. It was thought a knee problem might have effected his fielding and he underwent arthroscopic surgery following the season.
After a decent start, Young struggled the second half of 2000 as all of his numbers dropped. His movements around the field seemed to slow as well and fans started to get on him. When his numbers fell further in 2001, fans called for Lloyd McClendon to go with someone else at first. Young rebounded somewhat, especially in the field, in 2002, but suffered his second consecutive sub-.250 season McClendon began to play Craig Wilson more often at first during the latter stages of the campaign. It was for all intents and purposes the end of his major league career as the first baseman hit only .202 in 96 at bats in his final major league season in 2003
While Young endured much criticism over his final four seasons, he remained a classy guy in his response to fans and did not alibi for his performance on the field. Perhaps Young the man was best depicted on September 14, 1997, the day he let lose with emotion in the Pirate clubhouse. The last player to leave the stadium that day, Young was greeted by a couple of dozen fans requesting his autograph. The firstbaseman simply smiled and obliged, never giving a hint anything had upset him earlier.
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