Over at ESPN New York, Adam Rubin is doing a tremendous job with his offseason preview articles. There’s one blurb, though, that has me puzzled. In his player-by-player prediction piece for 2014, Rubin had the following to say regarding Eric Young, Jr.:
The Mets recognize they need his speed in the lineup. So Young should be in the starting lineup somewhere next season, whether that’s in the outfield or at second base.
I’m not sure whether Rubin is basing his prediction that Young will be a starter next season on legit information or intuition. Either way, it’s something that would be puzzling – especially if Young was one of the starting outfielders.
If Young is a starter in the outfield, it would mean the Mets are comfortable having someone who’s both a poor defender and a poor offensive piece (especially relevant to the position) out there. Regardless of how many diving catches Young has made in left field, he’s not a good defender. He gets bad breaks, takes poor routes, and has an arm that’s well below average.
If you’re accepting poor defense in the outfield, it has to be due to the fact that the poor defender offers above average offensive productivity.
What does Young provide offensively?
In five seasons as a major leaguer, Young has a triple slash of .258/.325/.338. This year for Colorado and the Mets, he hit .249 with a .310 on base percentage. For his career, Young has 7 home runs. The one plus tool he has is speed, and he harnessed that tool while leading the league with 46 stolen bases this season.
Still, Young’s lack of offensive punch should take him out of the discussion as far as being a starter in the outfield for the Mets is concerned. The Mets will likely be going with Juan Lagares full time in center field, and he isn’t expected to be a plus offensive piece – at least not by next season. Having both Young and Lagares as starters in the outfield would be a repeat of the end of 2013. It’s something that shouldn’t even be under consideration.
The other position Rubin alluded to for Young, was second base. In that scenario, Rubin speculated that the Mets would trade Daniel Murphy in order to fill a need elsewhere on the roster, while sliding Young to second base to replace him.
While Daniel Murphy didn’t exactly blow the doors off offensively this year (he had an average of .286, but an OBP of just .319), he hit 13 homers, stroked 38 doubles, and stole 23 bases. Murphy will never be better than average at second base, but there’s nothing to indicate that Young will, either. Young has played only 52 games at second base over the course of his career, with just 4 of them coming since 2011, making a potential swap with Murphy even more curious.
In a scenario where the Mets were to deal Daniel Murphy as part of a package for Troy Tulowitzki, before signing two above average hitters for the outfield, having Young as the starter at second base may be palatable. However, there’s no reason to believe that something like that is about to go down.
Barring something like the above scenario occurring, Young should be utilized as a fourth outfielder. He’s a great clubhouse guy, has tremendous speed, and offers a spark whenever he’s on base. What he isn’t, is a starter for a contending team – and that’s what the Mets intend to be in 2014.