With free-agent acquisition Curtis Granderson in right, uber-defensive specialist Juan Lagares in center and the speedy Eric Young Jr. in left field, the Mets have a quick, athletic and dynamic outfield. However, Chris Young—the odd man out in this equation—was not signed in the offseason (for a one-year deal worth $7.25 million) to rot on the bench.
Young has reported to Las Vegas after playing in two games at extended spring training. He is eligible to come off the disabled list on April 18.
So what does Terry Collins do when Young is ready to return to the lineup in roughly a week?
Some of the attributes that make Granderson, Young Jr. and Lagares special is their speed, versatility and defensive ability. That is where Young can make a name for himself as well. Let’s not forget why the Mets signed him the first place.
Young has had his share of issues in the past. He has been marred by injuries and is not the greatest contact hitter. He has not hit over .240 since 2010. But, he does have some decent pop; he averaged nearly 20 HR’s home runs between 2007 and 2010. He also is an asset on the basepaths, having accumulated 122 stolen bases in nine seasons.
Each of the aforementioned starting outfielders brings a different niche to the table, though, and each has a strong case for consistent playing time.
Let’s examine them one by one.
For all his warts (K rate and paltry OBP), Granderson was signed for his ability to hit the long ball and stabilize the clubhouse. Considering he hit 202 home runs in the seven years prior to last year’s injury-shortened season and signed a lucrative four-year deal, he won’t get pushed out of the outfield rotation.
Eric Young Jr.
Young Jr., who was last year’s NL stolen base champ, has started to find his groove of late and is coming off his finest performance of the year in the Mets 6-4 win over the Braves on Thursday night, in which he went 3-5 with a triple, four runs and three stolen bases. If he can get on base at a consistent clip at the top of the order, the Mets will be better off for it. Young Jr. is a bonafide sparkplug and if he can maintain a reasonable OPB, he will be a much valuable asset.
The one who has benefited the most while Young has been sidelined is Lagares.
Lagares has once again taken like a fish to water in centerfield, showing off his great range and being one of the game’s most gifted defensive players. It has not been all about defense with Lagares either. He has been quite the revelation at the plate, sporting a very impressive .303/.351/.515 slash line (prior to Friday night’s game) in 33 at-bats. Maybe he won’t keep it up, but you have to keep riding with him, given for what he provides you out on the field.
So, despite him signing a nice deal in the offseason, Young may find himself on the outside looking in when he is eligible to come back.
This is certainly a good problem for Collins to have. To have four exciting, athletically gifted and defensive minded outfielders to move in and out of the lineup will only be beneficial for the Mets. Not to mention, Collins has to also work in Andrew Brown, especially against lefties.
If these players are all committed and on the same page, playing time amongst them should be the least of their problems. These things tend to fix themselves out in the long run.
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