Statistics: 140 G, 356 PA, .252/.320/.453, 109 wRC+, 14 HR, 1.2 fWAR
2016 Contract Status: Free Agent
After a successful audition with the Yankees in the last month of the 2014 season, New York brought Chris Young back for 2015 on the cheap, signing him to a $2.5 million, one-year deal. He had raked to the tune of a .282/.354/.521 slash line in September the year before in the Bronx, and with the Yankees needing a fourth outfielder, Young's right-handed bat and versatility in the outfield fit the bill. While he had once been a four-win player with the Diamondbacks in 2010 and 2011, those days were long gone, but the Yankees didn't need him to be that player. They just needed him to be a solid right-handed that could bring balance to the lineup and handle some spot starts in the outfield. In the end, the Yankees got that - and they got a whole lot more.
Young started the year off raking, and other than a bad month in May, he hit well all year long. Young spent the beginning of the year platooning in the outfield, usually replacing Brett Gardner against left-handed pitchers. However, he found regular duty in the Yankee outfield for much of the year, as Jacoby Ellsbury struggled with injuries, and Carlos Beltran hit the DL for a couple weeks. He also simply forced his way into the lineup, as his bat became one of the most dependable right-handed bats the Yankees had on their roster. With a lineup made up mainly of lefties (suited especially well for Yankee Stadium), having a few good right-handed hitters to balance things out is a must. Young quickly became one of these dependable righties, getting off to a blistering start in April by hitting .305/.369/.644 with five doubles and five home runs.
With Ellsbury ailing in June, Young became an even more prominent fixture in the lineup, finding the field in 23 games and getting 68 at bats that month, both season highs. He helped the Yankees reel off seven straight victories to start June, and while the Yankees would end the month on a low note (losing seven of their last ten), Young's bat wasn't to blame. Overall, he hit .309/.329/.529 in the month for a 133 wRC+, helping New York weather the loss of Ellsbury without missing a beat.
In the second half of the season, Young continued to produce at the plate, hitting .259/.354/.454 after the All Star Break. His 119 wRC+ ranked third on the team in that stretch, albeit in about half as many plate appearances as the regulars. While defensively he received a negative rating from Fangraphs, his ability to play both corner spots competently - and occasionally some centerfield - gave Girardi the flexibility he loves, as well as a defensive replacement for Beltran that could still handle the bat.
Almost all of this success stemmed from his most valuable skill: his ability to hit lefties. While injuries forced Girardi to play more than he probably otherwise would have against righties (who he hit just .182 against on the year), he still hit .327/.397/.575 against lefties in 2015, making him a perfect fourth outfielder on this team. His success against them even got him put in the lineup for the Wild Card game, with the Yankees facing off against Dallas Keuchel (at the expense of Ellsbury, no less). Young exceeded expectations this season, did his job very well, and continued to perform in what amounted to more playing time than most of us probably expected. However, this will probably be the last we see of Young in pinstripes. He apparently wants more playing time, and with the Yankees outfield already full, plus their addition of Aaron Hicks, that's unlikely to happen here. If this is the end, though, the Yankees got more than their money's worth out of Young this year - the Yankees likely wouldn't have made it to October without his consistent production at the plate.