For Young, things can always get better

For Young, things can always get better

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Sometimes the hardest thing to see is what is right in front of you, but that is one of Chris Young's greatest strengths.

The D-backs center fielder is able to look at himself and recognize what it is he has to improve on.

"He's a very good self-evaluator," D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes said. "Most players are not good self-evaluators. He's pretty honest with himself. He knows what he wants to improve on. He's a smart guy who's a tremendous athlete."

No matter how good his performance, when Young examines it, he sees plenty of room for improvement.

The fact that he hit 32 homers, the sixth-most by a rookie in National League history doesn't impress him.

"This year, I've got to stay off that nasty stuff they throw me on the outside that I've been swinging at," Young said.

If he accomplishes that, it would certainly help him cut down on the 141 strikeouts he had last year, while at the same time take steps to raising his .295 on-base percentage.

"I'm sure anyone would like to have a better on-base percentage," Young said. "Getting on base is important, because I know the more I get on base, the more I can steal, the more I can make an impact on a game, and that's what I plan on doing."

What about the fact that he stole 27 bases to become the first rookie to hit 30 homers and record at least 25 thefts?

"I've got to work on getting better jumps on the bases," Young said. "Baserunning is something I want to make a huge improvement on."

OK, but what about his defense, which seemed to get better as the year went on. After all, he did have that amazing catch in San Diego where he jumped and reached over the wall to rob Mike Cameron of a grand slam.

"I want to be more consistent out there," he said. "I'd also like to be more aggressive defensively."

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Maybe Young pushes himself to get better because he remembers his days at Bellaire (Texas) High School where, unbelievably, he didn't get the opportunity to be a full-time starter until he was a senior.

"No matter how good you are, there will always be people that don't believe in you," Young said. "You have to keep pushing, you have to get better all the time. Last year, I felt like I grew as a player. I feel like I do that every year."

The numbers during his professional career bear that statement out. In 2004, while with the White Sox Class A team in Kannapolis, he struck out a whopping 145 times in 465 at-bats. The next year in Double-A, it was down to 129.

Young was then dealt to the D-backs prior to the 2006 season, and that year playing for Triple-A Tucson, his strikeouts dropped to 71 in 402 at-bats.

Last year, his OPS (on-base plus slugging) was more than 100 points better, and he nearly doubled his walk total in the second half.

"I think I made adjustments over the course of the year," Young said. "Sooner of later, you start to realize how pitchers are going to go after you. I had to make the adjustments. The pitchers made adjustments after the first couple of months on me, but I made adjustments as well, and I feel like I'm going to continue to do that.

"I have high expectations for myself. I don't set goals as far as home runs and stuff like that. I just know that I'm going to go in there and have a better year this year than last year."

That would certainly be good news for the D-backs.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.