Mets vs. left-handed pitching: Here’s an option

By Rich Sparago

When the Mets signed Michael Cuddyer, they did so with the intention that he’d primarily play the outfield. However, with Lucas Duda‘s struggles against left-handed pitching, and Cuddyer’s ability to play first base, it’s possible that Cuddyer will see time in the infield against southpaws.

Sep 19, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York Mets left fielder

Eric Young

Jr. (22) hits a RBI single against the Atlanta Braves in the ninth inning at Turner Field. The Mets won 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

This is backed up by the numbers. Last year, Duda hit .180 against lefties, with only 2 of his 30 home runs. Over his career, Duda has hit just .212 against left-handers. Cuddyer handles left-handed pitching well, batting .412 against them last year, and .291 over his career.

So it would make sense for Cuddyer to spell Duda at first when the Mets face a lefty. That leaves a gap in the outfield. How about Eric Young Junior? Young has actually hit better right-handed over his career than he has left-handed (.261 vs. .248). Last year the numbers were reversed, as Young hit better left-handed (.230 vs. .225). Young clearly brings the element of speed to the lineup, something the Mets would lack when he’s not playing. He stole 30 bases in a part-time role last year. While it’s stylish to value power these days, a look at the success of the Kansas City Royals demonstrates that speed can play an important role in a team’s fortunes.

Defensively, Young’s numbers are better than one may think. He has a career UZR of 3.1 as an outfielder. Though he does not possess a strong throwing arm, Young has the speed to run balls down in the gaps, and plays the game with an all-out style, willing to sacrifice his body to make a diving play or one against the wall.

Young is eligible for arbitration again this year. He made $1.85 million last year, and will likely earn around $2.5-3 million next year. Some have speculated that Young may be non-tendered because of his increasing salary. However, I’d argue that because of his speed, versatility (he can play second base as well), and ability to switch hit, he may be a value at his projected salary. If the Mets are looking for a right-handed outfield bat, Young will be a lot less expensive than Jonny Gomes, Ryan Ludwick, or Alex Rios, giving the Mets more to spend on a desperately needed upgrade at shortstop.

Given the Mets financial restrictions, they need to be wise about where they spend. I’m not convinced that spending significantly on a part-time outfielder is prudent. Eric Young is not an ideal player. He needs to do a better job of getting on base so he can use his speed. However, rather than seeing him as overpaid at $2.5-3 million, I see him as a value for the role he could potentially play on the 2015 Mets.