Top prospect Young eager for Futures Game: 'Always been a dream'

July 9th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Daniel Kramer’s Mariners Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SEATTLE -- and became fast friends in the Mariners’ Minor League system.

Both were first-round Draft picks in successive seasons (2021 and ‘22), they became roommates last year at High-A Everett just north of Seattle and this year will share the special experience of playing in the All-Star Futures Game this Saturday at Globe Life Field in Arlington.

“It's going to be fun,” Young said. “We're good friends, so it's just going to make the experience better. Just have fun, talk about different things or whatever. But it’s actually cool that we both got invited.”

This will be familiar territory for Ford, who was a headliner in last year’s Futures Game, played at T-Mobile Park and with a coaching staff that featured Mariners legends, such as manager Harold Reynolds, first-base coach Jay Buhner, third-base coach Mike Cameron, pitching coach Jamie Moyer, hitting coach Alvin Davis and bench coach Dave Valle.

But this will be the first go-round for Young, Seattle’s No. 1 prospect and MLB Pipeline's No. 22 prospect overall. Ford is the club's No. 2 prospect and No. 23 overall. They will be the Mariners’ lone representatives.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in that game,” Young said. “And it’s definitely really cool to be a part of it.”

After a slow start following a promotion to Double-A Arkansas to begin the season, Young feels like he’s found his footing. The transition to pitcher-friendly Dickey-Stephens Park was challenging, one that’s been a barometer that Seattle’s front office uses for its hitting prospects.

Young, who has always been known more for contact over power, went over a full month before hitting his first homer, on May 3, and in that 22-game stretch before it, he hit .234 with a .622 OPS. His 17.9% strikeout rate wasn’t an issue, but there was nonetheless a frustration for not seeing more consistent knocks.

“Honestly, it just kind of reminded me, like, that's the person you are,” Young said. “You’ve got to adjust. You’ve got to stick to your approach more. I hear that it plays similar to Seattle. You’ve just got to take your walks. You’ve got to take your knocks.”

But since Young clubbed his first homer, he went on to crush six more in 35 games through June 18, a stretch in which he hit .308 with an .897 OPS. But he’s also cooled in the 16 games since, with a .196 batting average and .581 OPS.

Any transition to a higher level will come with ebbs and flows, and frustrations can certainly arise. That’s what made what occurred on June 27 “a learning experience,” when Young was pulled from a game for not hustling to first base on a routine flyout.

“I knew it was going to be caught, and I just, I was so upset,” Young said. “I started jogging to first and, you know, there's been multiple plays where that's happened and the guy dropped the ball. And it just reminded me that those are just little things I’ve got to get better at.

“The coaches are just looking out for me and trying to get me better. And I've just kind of [got to] learn from that and get better. And so now, I've made it a point to pretty much run every single ball out.”

For the season, Young entered Tuesday with a slash line of .261/.355/.389 (.744 OPS) to go with seven homers, 15 doubles, 35 RBIs, 52 strikeouts and 40 walks. The natural shortstop has also seen more reps at second base -- four games at the former and two at the latter per week, in an effort to boost his positional versatility.

It’s no secret that if Young remains in the organization through the July 30 Trade Deadline, he very well could be the club’s long-term second baseman. The Deadline presents its own intrigue, given that the Mariners will be active buyers and have a farm system stocked with hitters like Young.

But especially given their jarringly prolonged struggles at the position -- with Jorge Polanco being the latest -- they very well could be banking on Young to be their long-term answer.