He became a Met three days after the Nieu Year began, but Eric Young has come to signify New York’s midseason turnaround as much as, if not more than, any other player on the ball club. The man they call EY has dazzled in the field and on the bases, making a number of diving catches in left field and tearing up the base paths with a team-high 20 steals (added to the eight he picked up with the Rockies). Young has even inspired his teammates to take more risks after getting on base: 11 of Daniel Murphy’s 15 stolen bases on the year, and all five of Juan Lagares’s, have come since Young’s June 19 arrival. The energy EY Jr. has brought to the team is one of the major factors behind the team’s 34-28 record since Kirk Nieuwenhuis ended Carlos Marmol’s Chicago career on June 16.
Young’s sparkplug nature, the likes of which Mets fans haven’t seen since Jose Reyes’s departure, and many of us are curious as to what his role will be in the next few years as the team rises from the ashes of its rebuilding period. The 28-year-old is under team control until at least until 2017, so barring serious injury or otherwise, EY will be a Met for the foreseeable future. The question is what his role will look like on the on New York’s contending teams through the end of the Obama administration.
Eric’s reputation as a slump breaker and a rally starter is well noted. His OBP in the first inning is a sterling .388, and a plurality of his steals (eight total in 2013) have come when he’s started the early rally. That success coincides with his numbers the first time he faces a starting pitcher, when he hits .296 with a .374 OBP. The numbers are similar in his third appearances against starters (.307 AVG, .366 OBP). In short, Young is particularly skilled at sparking the Mets right out of the gate or in the middle third when the team really needs it, as he did Tuesday night against the Braves.
There are definite reasons to question Eric’s role as a full-time player, however. He has struggled at the plate in his second month in New York, hitting just .188 since the All-Star Break. His numbers at home haven’t been great either: in 21 games at Citi Field, Young is batting a mere .212. In a nutshell, while EY is known for creating rallies, and does so, he doesn’t do it often enough. In regards to his glove, Young is good but certainly no Juan Lagares in left field: his Rdrs (defensive runs saved) reads at -3, certainly better than the -11 Lucas Duda was putting up out there but nowhere near Lagares’s incredible 21.
So if Young has this many holes in his game, why even consider him for the future, you may ask? Because even if he doesn’t put up All-Star numbers like David Wright and (eventually) Travis d’Arnaud, he can play an important role on a contending team. Eric is already a fan favorite and has been compared numerous times to Mookie Wilson – we love Mookie Wilson! Every team needs a Mookie Wilson, and EY’s speed and infectious smile fit the bill. He’s an upbeat guy, someone who can boost clubhouse morale, and God knows Terry Collins and company welcome that after suffering through Jordany Valdespin for the first half of the season. While he may get supplanted in the everyday lineup next year, Young can still be the sparkplug off the bench New York hoped Valdespin would be.
Bottom line: while Eric Young can be part of The Answer, he’s not the be-all, end-all to put the Mets over the top. Sandy Alderson still needs to explore the free agent market and look to trade some of New York’s fertile crop of starting pitching prospects to find the final piece to the puzzle. If a Shin-Soo Choo or a Jacoby Ellsbury comes along, Young may see a drop in playing time, but if Daniel Murphy or Wilmer Flores is packaged in a deal to bring in some outfield slugger, Eric will be a more-than-serviceable replacement at second base, his natural position.
Full disclosure: I already love Eric Young. He’s one of the best things to happen to the Mets in the Alderson-Collins era. I wanted undeniably to tell you that the case for Young as a full-timer for years to come was clear-cut. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, but I can’t find any reason for the Mets to leave him behind completely. EY should be wearing an NY on his cap in the mid-2010s.