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2023 Braves Season In Review: Danny Young

Danny Young had limited action for the Braves, but when he was on the mound, he had great results

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Kansas City Royals
Danny Young pitched well for the Braves
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

If you don’t remember Danny Young, that is okay. He actually did pitch in an Atlanta Braves uniform, though, giving the team eight different appearances and 8 13 innings of work.

How Acquired

The Braves claimed Young off waivers on August 6, 2022, from the Seattle Mariners. He made his Braves debut on August 15 of that year, which was his only Braves appearance that season (in addition to two appearances for Seattle). Young didn’t make the club out of Spring Training, but was one of the first relief arms called up when the Braves needed in the early part of the 2023 season.

What were the expectations?

It is hard to have reliable expectations for a relief pitcher in general, with how volatile their on-field numbers can be due to limited amount of innings that they end up pitching. Grabbing a guy off waivers, who tends to have an even smaller history of usage given their status on the roster fringe, makes it even harder to figure out what performance in a small sample might be.

Young had good numbers in the minors in 2022, but struggled at the minor league level in both 2021 and 2019. He was mostly expected to be a replacement-level type last-guy-in-the-’pen, and that’s largely how the Braves used him.

2023 Results

We saw very little of Danny Young in 2023. Even though there were four different times he was either selected or recalled, he only pitched 8 13 innings. He had four outings in his first stint, zero in his next two, and then the remaining four in his next stint.

He was placed on the minor league Injured List at the end of June, and was released on July 19. But, fret not: the Braves re-signed him to a minor league deal two days later. He was activated from the shelf late in the year, but didn’t pitch again, and eventually elected minor league free agency.

Amusingly, in Young’s limited major league innings, he pitched really well! He had a 24 ERA-, 56 FIP-, and 82 xFIP-, with an xERA lower than his xFIP. He struck out over 31 percent of batters faced, while walking under six percent. He didn’t allow a single homer, and despite being a sidewinding lefty, even his xFIP against righties was reasonable at 4.01.

What went right?

In terms of on-field performance, almost everything that could go right for Danny Young went right. In his first appearance on April 8th, he struggled a bit with giving up a double and a single which resulted in an earned run in 1.1 innings pitched. However, he did strike out two while issuing zero walks.

Since that first appearance, he faced twenty-nine more batters and never gave up another run. In his next six appearances he only gave up a total of two hits and two walks, while striking out seven.

In four of his eight appearances, he gave up zero hits and zero walks.

He only had 8.1 innings, so he did not qualify for many rankings on Statcast, but in his limited action, he was showing elite numbers. He had an xERA of 3.35, average exit velocity yielded of 86.6 MPH, hard hit percentage of 31.6 percent, and a swing and miss rate of 29.1 percent percent, all while giving up zero barrels. The whiff rate was driven by his slider, which got whiffs on nearly 50 percent of its swings.

All of these aforementioned metrics would have put him in the top 30 percent or better of MLB had he pitched enough innings.

Probably the biggest use he had to the team was on May 10, in which he pitched a 1-2-3 inning as part of a bullpen game. It was a weird 1-2-3 inning, though: he hit the first guy he faced, got a strikeout, benefited from a caught stealing, and then benefited from a lineout to short. As a result, he has the rare distinction of recording his highest-WPA play of the season on something that didn’t really involve him:

What went wrong?

The Braves ended up using Young in any semblance of leverage three times in eight tries. The first two, unfortunately, both resulted in meltdowns. On April 23, he came in to replace A.J. Minter after the latter had given up the lead in the ninth. After a hit-by-pitch and a two-run single, he struck out Yordan Alvarez. This was the two-run single, which involved Alex Bregman pulling an outside pitch and flaring it into left.

Then, on May 12, he relieved Spencer Strider in Toronto with a 1-0 deficit. He proceeded to issue a five-pitch walk and then a four-pitch walk, and his next pitch after that got past the catcher and made it a 2-0 deficit instead, before he got a groundout to escape the inning.

As a result, despite the actual good stats in 8 13 innings, he finished with zero shutdowns to two meltdowns, and -0.17 WPA on the year.

That limited action aside, probably the worst thing for Young is that he was neither healthy nor effective when not with the Braves. He had a pretty horrible line for Gwinnett, with a 7.27 FIP and 5.92 xFIP (not to mention a 6.32 ERA), but even that came in just 15 23 innings because he missed the entire second half with injury. While he probably would’ve elected minor league free agency anyway, he gave the Braves little reason to be excited in retaining him in lieu of a similar option going forward.

2024 Outlook

Danny Young elected free agency this off-season, so there is truly no telling what 2024 will hold. Steamer doesn’t project him as anything particularly interesting (4.50 FIP, 4.60 xFIP), but that’s not surprising given the sum total of his minor and major league performance last year.

Still, if he can get healthy, there should be no reason for a MLB club to give him a shot based on the limited results he had with the Braves in 2023.

The off-season is just starting to kick-off. Who knows? He may pitch for Atlanta again this year.

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