Yesterday, Mets manager Terry Collins told Adam Rubin of ESPNNY, that utility man
“Eric Young Jr. is his primary leadoff candidate at this point.
Still, with a full spring training to go, Collins cautioned: “But anything is possible.”
“Anything is possible,” is the key here. Maybe Collins is talking about some advanced level stuff platoon. And maybe this isn’t really going to happen. The reaction to his idea over at Metsblog and elsewhere around the Mets internet was pretty negative, and understandably so.
Young should not start over Juan Lagares, who will be 25, and in his age 24 season, established himself as one of the top defensive centerfielders in the game (behind only Carlos Gomez in Fangraphs adjusted UZR metric Def). Still, Lagares hit only .242/.281/.352 overall. If Lagares’ offense regresses at all, that on-base percentage will be a heavier weight down on the value his defense provides. Young, who will be 29 in May, has played 307 innings in center and Total Zone and UZR put him near average, although it’s a dangerously small number of chances from which to draw strong conclusions. Lagares, who displayed a relatively small platoon split in 2013 (losing a little power against RHP) should play over Young in center unless Lagares proves he really cannot hit Major League pitching.
Eric Young’s .258/.325/.338 batting line in 1273 career plate appearances will hardly inspire swooning from fans in the first row of seats, or those with access to the internet. However, he was pretty close to 2013’s leadoff man average of .265/.329/.390. Young is light in the power, but almost MLB average in on-base percentage for a leadoff man. He’s also a switch-hitter with next to no platoon split – .253/.323/.336 vs. RHP and .268/.330/.342 vs. LHP in his career.
Now, in both corners, the Mets are planning on starting outfielders with major and complementary platoon splits. The Mets will maximize the value of both players, and their roster in general, by recognizing and embracing these splits. Chris Young has beat up lefties at a .262/.363/.474 rate for his career and hit just .225/.295/.415 against righties. Oh, sure, among Youngs, Chris has Eric well covered with that .190 isolated slugging percentage against righties, but Eric Young provides just a little more on-base skill at the top of the lineup.
In the other corner, Curtis Granderson also has major platoon splits and is weak against lefties. He has gone .274/.357/.519 against righties in his career and .226/.295/.409 against lefties. Again, Granderson has more power, but less on-base skills than EY against his same-handed pitchers.
Maybe Collins is suggested an extended platoon where Chris Young sits against many righties, Granderson against many lefties and Eric Young Jr. plays a lot. That seems to fly in the face of the market valuation of the three players, but it would give the Mets a little more on-base percentage at the top of the lineup.
Perhaps the Mets are on to something more radical. For road games, EY Jr. leads off, and the #9 spot in the batting order is held as a place-holder by the previous night’s starting pitcher. EY Jr. and his speed, come to bat in the top of the first inning. At the end of the inning, Collins can then choose to insert his starting pitcher into the #9 spot in the order or the #1, and substitute his anther position player either into the #9 or #1 spot in the order, or just roll with Young. Collins could deploy Juan Lagares, Daniel Murphy or any of his other outfielders to make a double-switch, or not. Does this make any sense? I’m not sure.
Maybe Eric Young will lead off in a extended platoon with both corner outfielders. Doing so would sacrifice power for on-base percentage and speed. Maybe he won’t. Either way, it’s the end of January. It’s been a long winter without baseball. Terry Collins is still two months away from writing out his lineup card in the first game that counts in 2014.