Getting the most out of the lineup: Leading off with Chris Young

Chris YoungThere are some roles within the 2014 Mets that are givens.  David Wright will almost definitely hit 3rd, Curtis Granderson will almost certainly hit 4th and whoever is playing first base will likely be hitting 5th or 6th.  What we don’t know is who will be leading off for the Mets.  As I see it, the Mets have a number of options: Eric Young Jr., Chris Young, Juan Lagares, Ruben Tejada or Daniel Murphy.

Eric Young Jr. – 46 Stolen Bases in 2013

  • Reasons He Should Leadoff: He has the most natural speed of anyone on the Mets.  If you look over the length of his career, he averages around 1 stolen base for every 10 of his at bats.  Stolen bases are a part of what we’ve come to expect from a leadoff hitter. Stolen bases are what turn a leadoff hitter into a spark plug as he can create opportunities with his legs once he’s on base.
  • Reasons He Should Not Leadoff: If you want to steal a base you need to be on base and he’s not that skilled in that regard.  The Mets wish to use him as a 4th/5th outfielder and backup second baseman and that is probably a wise decision.  If he starts a game he might leadoff but he’s most useful being inserted as a runner later in the game.

Chris Young – A Dynamic Mix of Speed and Power

  • Reasons He Should Leadoff: You don’t think of Young as being an on-base machine.  He’s only a career .235 hitter, but his career OBP is 80 points higher because he does seem to know how to take the occasional walk.  He’s also probably the second fastest player on the roster and his speed would have far less impact if stuck behind Ike Davis or Josh Satin.
  • Reasons He Should Not Leadoff: Young’s hitting approach is not what you really want in a leadoff hitter.  He thinks of himself as a power hitter.  This leads us to the issue of Young’s excessive strikeouts.  He certainly isn’t the ideal fit for the role of leading off with his free swinging approach.

Juan Lagares – Won Over Met Fans with Amazing Defense

  • Reasons He Should Leadoff: Lagares isn’t slow, you’ve seen him run in the outfield to track down balls, but he’s equally not a great base runner.  He could get better.  Back in 2010 he stole 25 bases between Savannah and Port St. Lucie.
  • Reasons He Should Not Leadoff:  Lagares is not good at taking a walk, at all.  His OBP is only 40 points higher than his batting average.  Now some people see Lagares growing into a .270 hitter with 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases but I do not.  I see Lagares as being the Endy Chavez of the 2014 Mets.  His defense is his only plus tool.

Ruben Tejada – Had a .360 OBP in 2011

  • Reasons He Should Leadoff: At points in his Met career Tejada has shown the most important element of being a leadoff hitter, getting on base.  He’s not going to steal many bases but if he’s on base he can score runs and that is what leading off is all about.
  • Reasons He Should Not Leadoff:  If Tejada is as bad as he was in 2013, he doesn’t belong in the majors at all.  Now… I am not in favor of Wilmer Flores blundering around at shortstop, but I am in favor of having his bat in the lineup and that becomes an even greater boost if we’re losing the .519 OPS of Tejada in the process.

Daniel Murphy – Stole a Surprising 23 Bases in 2013

  • Reasons He Should Leadoff: How can a player with only a 40 point difference between his BA and OBP be considered for this role?  Murphy’s batting average is a career .290 which beats out all of the other names on this list.  That, and his canny base stealing ability make him a viable choice for the role.
  • Reasons He Should Not Leadoff: The downside is that Murphy is a viable candidate to hit 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th in the lineup.  While he’d probably be okay in the leadoff role, is it really the best place for him?

All of these things combine to give me the impression that Chris Young is likely the best candidate for the job.  Then again, Stephen Drew could come to town and throw his name into the hat.  We’ll see what the Mets decide soon enough.

14 comments for “Getting the most out of the lineup: Leading off with Chris Young

  1. TJ
    February 8, 2014 at 9:40 am

    David,
    Excellent article. I see the leadoff choice between the two Youngs, perhaps with a platoon. I want Lagares in CF and hitting low in the line up, without the pressure that the top of the order brings. I don’t want Tejada and Lagares in every day, which makes Drew more of a necessity. Tejada can get plenty of ABs most vs LHP spelling Drew or Murphy. C Young is very intriguing now that he spent two weeks with Rod Carew. This guy can walk, he is athletic, and can steal bases. If he changed his approach of trying to pull and kill everything, he could re-invent himself as a nice gap hitter in Citifield and raise that OBP. We’ll see how disciplined he is and how committed. I think OBP will get him more ABs that HR will on this squad.

  2. amazin
    February 8, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Lead-off man biggest question and second biggest problem on this team. Biggest problem is first base. Solve both by playing Murph at first and putting him first in the lineup.

    • David Groveman
      February 8, 2014 at 12:14 pm

      So, Murphy on 1st an Flores on 2nd?

  3. February 8, 2014 at 11:05 am

    I think Murphy would be fine as a leadoff guy but in a perfect world I would probably bat him fifth or sixth. I want him up there with the goal of driving the ball for extra bases – not content on slapping the ball the other way for a single.

    If Tejada has his head screwed on straight, I guess he’ll see a fair amount of time leading off.

  4. Name
    February 8, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Where is Duda? Look at what the Cards did with Matt Carpenter at the top of the lineup.

    • David Groveman
      February 8, 2014 at 12:14 pm

      Platooning the OBP combo of Duda and Satin at the top of a lineup could work. It would be an option and I hadn’t thought of it. Good call!

      • Name
        February 8, 2014 at 2:15 pm

        He also fits the mold of taking a lot of pitches so other players can get a look at the pitcher.
        1st pitch swinging:
        Duda-16.4%
        Young-16.5%
        Tejada-17.2%
        Satin-19%
        Lagares-22.8%
        Murphy-26.7%

        Actually Chris Young also seems pretty patient, but he needs to show he can hit some more. I’m not completely sold on Satin so I could see Duda leading off vs RHP and Young leading off vs LHP

        • Chris F
          February 8, 2014 at 10:33 pm

          Unfortunately Duda is a guy in disequilibrium. Let’s say that keen eye continues and he impresses us all with walks (although I’m completely over OBP as some sort of magical guiding light). He still won’t got fist to third, or First to home. He’s no threat to a pitcher who can focus on the batter, and he’s a major DP candidate. Hence, I would never put him up front. He plays a power position and needs to be hitting the Dunkin Donuts sign in the RF stands.

          • Name
            February 9, 2014 at 1:06 pm

            Why is going first to third so important in the leadoff spot? Also why does a leadoff batter need to be a threat to pitcher on the basepaths? We’ve been conditioned that this is the way to go, but is it really the best way to go? There’s no proof that it does. Getting on base though does correlate with more runs. I’d take him at leadoff over Lagares, EY all day everyday. I’d consider a productive CYoung or Tejada as leadoff though.

            Being leadoff actually helps the DP problem because he is less likely to have someone in front of him to hit into a DP.

  5. Sean Flattery
    February 8, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    The interesting thing about Murphy is that he actually has a good eye at the plate. I think he just feels he can drive balls off the plate where he wants to, somewhat over-ambitious, alittle like Vlad Guerrero without the added pop. It will be interesting to see if he tweeks his approach anyway this season. Either way, I’m good.

  6. TexasGusCC
    February 8, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    David, I agree with you on Chris Young.

  7. Metsense
    February 8, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    The 2011 version of Tejada would profile well for lead off. A .360 OBP with no power.
    The 2010 or 2011 Chris Young batting 5th with a .333 OBP and 20 homeruns would look nice sandwiched between the lefties Granderson and Duda.
    Lagares needs to bat 7th for his speed and he is too raw and undisciplined to bat eighth. Pitchers would eat him up there. d’Arnaud falls to eighth to start the year.
    Eric Young is the late inning pinch runner. Keep Murphy in the two hole and the lineup will also be balanced.

  8. February 9, 2014 at 12:16 am

    Chris Young signed a one year contract very early this off season. I wonder if the demand for his talents was not where he and his agent thought it would be. Maybe it lights a fire and he’ll put up the kind of numbers he’s capable of, Being platooned cannot be any major league players wish. Hopefully it gets imbedded into his psyche and he learns better things happen when you make contact than to strikeout 180 times in a season. He would solve the problem at lead off and drop Tejada to the 8 hole where he is a better fit.

  9. Scott Ferguson
    February 9, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    If the Mets sign Drew, he should bat leadoff in some sort of platoon setup. Like, I could see Drew hitting leadoff against righties and EY or CY doing so against lefties.
    If no Drew it will be a revolving door.

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