The lineup may not be a sign of things to come. If it is, though, the decision between who to start regularly in the outfield between Young, Jr. and Juan Lagares needs to officially be taken out of Collins’ hands.
Aug 31, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets teammates Eric Young (22) and Juan Lagares (12) celebrate after a game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. The Mets defeated the Nationals 11-3. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
This has been spoken about often, and it’s almost unbelievable that Lagares vs. Young, Jr. is still a debate.
If this was a spring training competition – which it shouldn’t have been – Lagares has won it. He has the same number of stolen bases as Young, Jr. (whose only plus tool is his speed), is playing his regular brand of spectacular defense, and is hitting .302 compared to Young, Jr.’s .256.
However, something this important shouldn’t be decided by spring training numbers. It should be based on which player provides the most value. That player is Lagares, and it isn’t even close.
Erasing the negligible offensive difference between Young, Jr. and Lagares is the fact that Lagares is one of the best center fielders in all of baseball – someone whose value with the glove alone trumps Young, Jr.’s entire game.
Eric Young, Jr. is a fourth outfielder – someone who can start a game or two a week and come off the bench in a pinch. Additionally – and contrary to the belief of some – Young, Jr. is a poor defensive outfielder. He has one plus tool – his speed.
Juan Lagares is a game changer with his glove, and is someone who may very well outproduce Eric Young, Jr. offensively anyway.
During the second half of the 2014 season, Eric Young, Jr. had a triple slash of .228/.292/.300. Comparatively, Lagares’ 2013 triple slash was 241/.281/.352.
Again, why is this even a debate?
On Tuesday, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson intimated that if Lagares isn’t starting every day in the majors, he’s better off in the minor leagues – a quote Adam Rubin of ESPN took to mean that Lagares will be the starter in center field.
If he hasn’t already, Alderson needs to sit down with Collins and explain that Lagares is the choice – that he’ll be playing every day, and that Collins’ infatuation with Eric Young, Jr. needs to stop.
If necessary, Alderson could also state publicly that Lagares – at least from the outset – is the choice.
No more ambiguity, no more debates. This is Lagares’ job. End the nonsense.