The 2013 season marks the fifth in the brief history of the Gwinnett Braves Baseball Club. To honor that milestone, GwinnettBraves.com will feature some of the great players from the previous four seasons of G-Braves baseball on "5th Season Friday." The feature will run each Friday until the Season Opener on April 4.
Friday, January 18: Matt Young
With a power hitter and power pitcher already covered in the first two weeks of "5th Season Friday" features, this week the attention turns to Gwinnett's premier catalyst, outfielder Matt Young. At just 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, Young was never exactly imposing in the batter's box, but his ability to get on base, steal his way into scoring position and score runs made him a vital cog in the G-Braves' offense from 2009 to 2011.
Young went undrafted out of the University of New Mexico in 2004, but was signed by the Atlanta Braves in August of that year. He would wait to make his professional debut until 2005, when he hit .312 with 15 doubles, four triples, six home runs, 85 runs scored and 52 RBI in 114 games for Class-A Rome. He hit .281 with 30 doubles, 65 runs scored and 52 RBI in 118 games with Advanced-A Myrtle Beach the next season, earning a late-season promotion to Double-A Mississippi. It was in the Southern League that his fast rise leveled off, as Young spent parts of the 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons with the M-Braves.
Young captured Mississippi's Player of the Year award in 2009, hitting .289 with 22 doubles, 10 triples, four homers, 81 runs scored and 33 RBI in 130 games. His ultimate reward was, at long last, a call-up to Triple-A Gwinnett. Playing in the final seven games of the International League season, he hit .192 with a double, home run and six runs scored. It was just the first taste of a level he'd become quite used to over the next three years.
Present on Gwinnett's Opening Day roster in 2010, Young went on to have a career year. He hit .300 with a team-high 88 runs scored, five triples and 39 stolen bases, while also finishing second on the club in total hits (146), doubles (33) and walks (57) and third in total bases (198). Though starting the year slowly with a .237 average in April, he'd rebound to hit .275 in May, a white-hot .382 in June, .292 in July and .306 in August. Young twice captured International League Player of the Week honors, on June 17 and August 22, becoming the first G-Brave to win the award twice in one season.
His breakout 2010 campaign, coupled with a solid spring, put Young on Atlanta's Opening Day roster in 2011. He'd make his Major League debut in fitting fashion, pinch-running for Chipper Jones and scoring a run on April 3 at Washington. Young played sparingly afterward, hitting .105 with a pair of singles and two runs scored in nine games for the Braves. He was transferred to Gwinnett on April 21.
Young continued to be the sparkplug of the G-Braves' offense in 2011, though not to the same level as 2010. He hit .273 over the course of 99 games, pounding out 16 doubles, four triples and a home run while scoring 64 runs and tallying 24 RBI. A June call-up back to Atlanta saw him hit .276 with a double, two runs scored and his first career RBI over the course of 11 games.
Based on his strong two-year run in Lawrenceville, Young is among Gwinnett's franchise leaders in multiple categories. He leads all G-Braves in the two speed categories, having legged out nine career triples and stolen 57 bases. Young also easily leads the franchise in runs scored, having crossed home plate 158 times. He's second in Gwinnett franchise history in total hits (251), walks (117), at-bats (879) and games played (240) while ranking third in doubles (50). His .286 career batting average ranks just outside the top five in Gwinnett Braves history.
Young's career continued in a new direction in 2012 as he signed with the Detroit Tigers. Though returning to the familiar International League with the Toledo Mud Hens, he struggled, hitting .212 with six doubles, five triples, a home run, 44 runs scored and 24 RBI in 96 games. The Tigers called him up to the Majors for a five-game stint in June, but released him on August 10. Young signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and played the remainder of the year with Triple-A Memphis of the Pacific Coast League, finishing strong with a .442 average in 13 games.
After seven stable seasons in the Braves organization, Young has become a bit of a journeyman. This offseason, he joined his third different team in a year, signing a free agent deal with the Los Angeles Angels. He'll look to bring his table-setting ability and electrifying speed to the Angels system, much like he did to the top of the Gwinnett Braves order from 2009 to 2011.