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Fantasy Baseball 2012: The True Value Of Chris Young

In this week's column, Cody Ulm tries to make sense of the enigma that is Chris Young.

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Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Young is a man of many faces. Sometimes he's the stud who hits five home runs in his first eleven games of 2012. Other times you get the man who was optioned to the minors during a 2009 season in which he batted .212. Oh yeah, and on weekends he's moonlights as a country singer who occasionally pitches for the Mets and can't stay healthy.

But if one thing is for certain it's that Young has always been as unpredictable as they come. And after missing the past 28 games with a shoulder injury, Young made his return to the lineup this weekend while the Diamondbacks were paying a visit to Kansas City.

Now, following a series in which he went he only compiled two hits in his first 12 at bats back (with a clutch two-RBI double that's well worth mentioning), fantasy owners are back to pondering which Chris Young they'll be getting for the rest of this season. Here's to hoping they wont be singing "we're like fire and gasoline" as we make the jump:

Will the real Chris Young please stand up?

First and foremost I'd like to inform you that Young isn't and will never consistently be anything close to the batter who has an OPS of 1.397 and 13 RBIs before his tore a ligament in his shoulder making a spectacular catch against the wall. So if there's anyone in your league that's convinced he's going to continue to compete with Matt Kemp for the title of NL most valuable outfielder then sell high and sell quickly.

But just because he isn't a poor man's Willie Mays doesn't mean he still can't be a valuable commodity in some make believe baseball leagues (as long as you're willing to put up with his streaky tendencies that is).

Young has never started anywhere near as hot as the way he did in the beginning of 2012 so it's clear that the tinkering he made to his swing can be filed under the improvement category. He's still not going to be able to hit a slider on the outside corner but this is looking like the year he could break the .260 batting barrier for the first time in his career.

Then again, Young's value has never lied in his average but rather his rare speed/power combination. Ever since he slugged 32 homers to go along with his 27 stolen bases in 2007, Young has had fantasy geeks drooling over his 30-30 potential that always seemed to be right around the corner. Truth is though that I don't believe 30-30 season will ever come, especially after he was caught nine times out of his 31 attempts last year. A 70.1% clip isn't quite at that elite level and there's no excuses for Young considering his nagging thumb and wrist injuries had nothing to do with being caught stealing that many times.

On the other hand, I do confidently believe that this is the year Young get back near, if not over, the 30-home run hump. Before the lingering injuries began to pile up after the all-star break, Young was hitting a home run every 22.2 at bats. To put that number in perspective, Young was hitting home runs at a greater rate than marquee dual threat outfielders such as Andrew McCutchen (23.4), Carlos Gonzalez (24.5) and even teammate Justin Upton (23.2).

While his first three games back have been nothing too exciting, Young has shared that he's still not entirely comfortable playing the field due to some discomfort while throwing. In a perfect world, the Dbacks would continue to play some AL team on the road for the next week so Young could continue to DH periodically but instead fans might be faced with a prolonged cold streak as Young tries to get back into the groove.

Final Prognosis:

Young's going to crash back to reality after being away from the game for so long but don't expect his fall to be that hard. If an owner panics out of fear that he might be regressing to his anemic numbers he put up the final three months of 2011 then jump all over him at a premium price. I fully expect Young to be a top-20 outfielder the rest of the way as he hits fourth or fifth in a lineup that's going to be one of the NL's most dangerous once everything falls into place. New career-highs in RBI, OBP, HR and AVG also aren't out of the question.

Chris Young's 2012 predicted final numbers: 87 runs, 29 home runs, 92 RBI .262/.345/.475 with 21 stolen bases