Young Jr.'s offensive abilities are enticing. Image: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Evaluating The Talent: Eric Young Jr.

If new Rockies manager Walt Weiss is guilty of a baseball cliche in his first weeks on the job, it is this one: “we’re going to be aggressive.” This includes aggression on the base paths, trying to take the extra base, steal bases, and so on. The Rockies have one player who is capable of doing serious damage in that facet of the game: Eric Young Jr.

It was about one year ago that Young Jr. was in the midst of his #refuse2beignored social media campaign. Maybe there is a better word than campaign to describe it, because @EYJr continues to embrace the motto. He also continues to be an inspirational figure to many people and a class act (he recently visited a Children’s Hospital with his wife). He is easy to cheer for and he provides instant excitement when he enters a game.

Young Jr. had an impact in limited action in 2012. He batted an impressive .316, stole 14 bases on 16 attempts, and posted a walloping .825 OPS. The Bill James projections for his 2013 season have him at a .276 average and 21 stolen bases. The Rockies would happily take that production from a part time player.

There are two glaring problems with Eric Young Jr. With the outfield being his primary position at the moment, he finds himself blocked by a logjam of capable players. The Rockies have four quality outfielders who are good enough to start; after that EYJr. must compete with Charlie Blackmon for the other spot.

Weiss has hinted at using Young Jr. in the infield as well. This would create more at-bats for him and his speed to impact the game. But aren’t we just going in circles now? He came up as a second baseman and then got moved because his glove there was not good enough. Now we are back to him playing second, in addition to some time at third? (an altogether terrifying thought, by the way). How many times do we have to do this?

This is where Young Jr.’s lack of a true defensive position really becomes a problem (EYJr. even told the Denver Post that his position is “lead-off hitter”). In order to improve this season, the Rockies must play better defense. In 2012 their offense was fine and their defense was not. EYJr. is a major asset on offense but a major problem on defense. Does he fit the blueprint for overall improvement in 2013? Is his speed enough to keep him around? After all, we might not even be talking about him if he were not so darned fast.

In the end Young Jr. should end up in the crowded timeshare in the outfield. While it is nice to mention him as a “super utility” candidate, it is hard to imagine him beating out the glut of players already competing for that role (Jordan Pacheco, Jonathan Herrera, DJ LeMahieu, and Reid Brignac). His main goal should be to beat Blackmon for that fifth outfielder spot.

Where should Young Jr. be in 2013? Stealing bases and still looking for a defensive position.

Where will Young Jr. be in 2013? You guessed it. By the way, I realize what a cop-out this is…I just have no idea where this guy fits.

Tags: Colorado Rockies

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