With the minor league season coming to an end Monday, it is time for the post-season awards. All position players that started the season in April with Low-A South Bend Cubs, High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Double-A Tennessee Smokies and Triple-A Iowa Cubs were considered. Only players remaining in the minors for the entire season were eligible to be named the Minor League Player of the Year.
The CCO Minor League Player of the Year – INF/OF Chesny Young
Overshadowed by several first round picks and a number of high profile acquisitions by the front office, Chesny Young entered the 2015 season unassumingly and is exiting as the CCO’s Minor League Player of the Year. Chesny Young was kind enough to grant Chicago Cubs Online an interview this past weekend.
Interview – Chesny Young
Chicago Cubs Online: Chesny, congratulations to you on your fine season.
Chesny Young: Thank you. We still have a few games left, and the goal is to finish strong.
CCO: Take us through the process prior to the 2014 draft. Were there any discussions with the Cubs as to what your role would be?
CY: I was a junior at Mercer College and wasn’t sure whether I was going to be drafted, so went up to the Cape Cod League. When I heard that I was drafted in the 14th round, I figured that was high enough and signed. I had played mostly third base in college, but was drafted as a second baseman. So, learning a new position was difficult.
CCO: What did the Cubs emphasize with you in the Fall Instructional League following the 2014 season?
CY: The Cubs just wanted me to get more work at second base, and stressed more explosiveness in my swing. Most of all, the Cubs just let me be myself and look for different ways to get better.
CY: It’s hard to be prepared, so I spend about 50 minutes prior to each game hitting each position, placing the most emphasis on the one I will be playing that night. Outfield takes the most practice, as I haven’t really played out there. Right now, (Manager) Mark Johnson has me setting up shallow and working on going back on the ball.
CCO: You are currently leading the Carolina League in hitting. Have ever experienced something like this, or is this new to you?
CY: I’ve always hit for a high average, but one year in college I hit around .400 and led the conference.
CCO: What are your plans for the off-season?
CY: I am going to be attending something new called Advanced Instructs. It’s sort of an All-Star team made up of players from other organizations. Right now, the plan is for me to work on swinging with a little more power and to get stronger.
Drafted in the 14th round out of Mercer College in 2014, Chesny Young lit up the scoreboard after a two game warm-up in the rookie league. Assigned to Short-Season A Boise, Young hit .354/.466/.417 with three doubles and nine RBI in 15 games before being bumped up to Low-A Kane County. The quick rise didn’t seem to faze Young, as he went out and batted .324/.348/.419 with six doubles, two triples and nine RBI in 27 games for the Cougars. All combined, Young put together a .327/.384/.409 slash line with nine doubles, two triples, 18 RBI, a .767 OPS and three stolen bases in 44 games.
The Cubs moved Young around in the infield his first season, playing him at second, third, and shortstop with the bulk of the duty at second base, fielding .987 in 32 games. Young went to the Fall Instructional League in order to prepare for the challenges of 2015.
It was somewhat of a surprise that Young started the year back in Low-A ball with the South Bend Cubs, but that didn’t slow Young down. Young played mainly second base, with four games at short, for the SB Cubs and batted .315/.385/.380/.765 with five doubles, a triple, 14 RBI and nine stolen bases in 28 games. On May 11, Young was promoted to High-A Myrtle Beach.
With the Pelicans, Young really stepped up his game. Myrtle Beach expanded the role that Young had in the past, playing him not only at shortstop, second and third base, but also at first base and in the outfield. While moving around the diamond, Young was able to maintain the same level of defensive excellence at each position. Young’s overall fielding percentages at each position were: First base – .986; Second base – .990; Shortstop – .952; Third base – .983; Left and Right fields – 1.000 at each with four outfield assists.
Even with all the position changes, Young was able to maintain his concentration at the plate, winning the Carolina League batting championship. But Chesny Young did not simply win the hitting crown, he blew away the competition! Young outdistanced the league’s number two hitter by 24 points, with his final line in the Carolina League being .321/.394/.388/.782. Those numbers placed Young third in the league in on-base percentage and seventh in OPS. The numbers include a 44-game on-base streak. Overall, Young batted .320/.392/.386/.778 with 23 doubles, four triples, a home run, 44 RBI and 21 stolen bases.
Myrtle Beach play-by-play man Nathan Barnett assisted with a scouting report on Chesny Young:
“Chesny can flat out hit. He has an extremely advanced approach for this level, at the plate and off the diamond with his unique and intricate mental routine. He has been a joy to watch and a pleasure to have in the clubhouse. Manager Mark Johnson described Chesny as “a pro,” and I think that’s spot on. He’s mature beyond his years and humble, yet tremendously focused and confidence. The fact that he’s had the success that he has had while playing six different positions speaks to his incredible ability to compartmentalize parts of the game and keep things simple.”
- 47 multi hit games, 37 with Myrtle Beach — most on the team
- Carolina League Midseason and Year-End All-Star
- Played 3B, SS, 2B, 1B (first time in his career), LF (also 1st), and RF (also first) … In just 15 outfield games, has four assists
- Working on driving the ball more in the air on the pull side while hitting line drives to the opposite field.
- Toughest player to strikeout when he left the Midwest League … currently the second toughest player in the Carolina League
- Leading the League in batting (and will finish as the leader) — first Pelican to lead the league since 2006
- First in Cubs minor leaguers in batting (among full season players)
Also, fellow Pelicans’ broadcaster Mason Robinson added these thoughts:
“Right when Chesny joined the club, the first thing that immediately jumped off the page at me was how he has translated his tremendous success at the plate in college (at Mercer) to success at the professional level. He has figured out a very unique formula that works for him, from pregame yoga, to his vast taste in reading, he takes such a cerebral approach to the game of baseball. There is a calm confidence and laser-beam focus to Chesny Young that I think will take him far in this game.”
The competition for this year’s award was fierce, as several other players had very good seasons. Catcher Willson Contreras seemingly came out of nowhere to become the best hitter in the Southern League. As a member of Tennessee, Contreras led the league as he batted .333/.413/.478/.891 with 34 doubles, four triples, eight home runs and 75 RBI for the Smokies. Switch-hitting third baseman Jeimer Candelario really put things together after a rough first month, hitting a combined .277/.339/.431/.770 with 35 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs and 64 RBI, along with a 46 game errorless streak, as he split time between Myrtle Beach and Tennessee. Outfielder Jeffrey Baez had a tremendous second half after being installed as lead-off man for South Bend, while later moving on to Myrtle Beach. Baez hit a combined .280/.321/.422/.743 with 17 doubles, six triples, nine home runs and 35 RBI while leading the entire system with 36 stolen bases.
• Thursday: The CCO’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year