The 2014 season is quickly approaching, and the New York Mets have to decide what to do with Eric Young Jr. With two spots now taken in the outfield, there is a race to see who will be the third. And although Young is a candidate, it is probably best for him to become the utility man instead.
Young was traded to the Mets from the Colorado Rockies on June 18, 2013. Since then, he's hit for a .251 average with 26 RBI and 38 stolen bases in 91 games for the team.
If Young became the full-time utility man, the Mets would surely miss his speed. He looks to be the only player whose legs can ignite the team while on base. After all, he had a career-high 46 stolen bases last season, which led him to become the National League stolen base champion. But that's the thing: He doesn't get on base often.
Young increased his number of walks during the 2013 season, but he hasn't really been hitting any better. He is a career .258 hitter. His on-base percentage in 2013 was a measly .318 compared to other leadoff hitters.
Young isn't a strong and consistent hitter. And Juan Lagares is superior in terms of defense. So, if the only thing going for Young is that he runs better on bases, should he really be the everyday starter in the outfield?
Lagares posted similar numbers to Young in 2013, although he played less time. He has a batting average of .242 and an on-base percentage of .281, which is even worse than Young. But Lagares played elite defense last season.
The video above demonstrates Lagares' defensive skills. There are many plays that other outfielders can't accomplish, such as the rolling catch on the ground at the 2:12 mark. Lagares is speedy, he judges how a ball is hit pretty well and he makes incredible plays.
At the end of the day, defense wins games. So, Lagares is the better option as the third outfielder.
If everything goes smoothly during spring training, Lagares should become the third outfielder while Young sits on the bench. And on games where he is given the opportunity to start, Young can be the leadoff hitter.
But Young shouldn't be upset if he isn't an outfielder.
In fact, he seems to be happy with any upcoming role that he gets. “Getting that opportunity with the Mets just makes me more excited for spring training. I am revved up about getting back out there,” Young said to Kristie Ackert of New York Daily News. He added that he had to make sure he had both gloves ready for the upcoming season.
Young is a natural second baseman. He can start games when Murphy needs rest or is unable to play. He can also start games in the outfield whenever needed. Even if he isn't the everyday starter, Young can have sufficient playing time throughout the year. And he can surely help the Mets.