Much was made about the Rockies' offensive woes at second base in 2010. A large part of the problem can be attributed to the now-departed Clint Barmes and his .656 OPS in 432 plate appearances, but he certainly wasn't the only culprit. In today's Rockies Player Review, we'll look at another guy who struggled mightily at the plate, but was still the recipient of most of the innings at second base during the final stretch of the season - Eric Young Jr.
Young was inserted into the lineup pretty much on an everyday basis upon his return from the DL on August 14th. That more or less coincided with a bit of a winning streak for the Rockies as a club, so he was kept there until the Rockies' final homestand (which is when their tailspin hit full effect), when he suffered a shin injury and was shelved for the remainder of the season. When the team was particularly hot - which was about the first two weeks of September - EY2 was at his best. During the first ten games of September, he posted a .359/.402/.410 line, although that was mostly BABIP-driven (.438). However, he did draw five walks against just seven strikeouts - a strong point in his game that showed throughout the year, as his 9% walk rate (compared to the league average of 8.5%) would suggest. He was also a terror on the basepaths, stealing 17 out of 23 bags, including 12-of-13 to begin the year. Defensively, Young was better than advertised at second base, posting a 3.5 UZR/150.
However, baseball players not named Albert Pujols aren't without their weaknesses, and Young has a glaring one in his game - an extreme lack of power. Young posted just six extra-base hits in 189 plate appearances, good for a .285 slugging percentage. When you consider his slugging percentage in the ten games noted above (which consumed almost a quarter of his total plate appearances), it looks even worse. And, when the Rockies started pressing, so did EY2 - he ended the season on a 4-for-35 slump, and didn't have a single extra-base hit in his final 18 games. As hinted at above, Young is a streaky hitter who can find himself in a heap of trouble at the plate when his BABIP normalizes. Also for what it's worth, Jim Tracy needs to end the outfield experiment yesterday. Young's 65 innings in the outfield were a complete and utter disaster according to UZR/150 (-78.5), and I don't think he was much better by simply using the eye test, either.
Click past the jump to see our summary and grade for Eric Young Jr.'s 2010 season, as well as what to expect in 2011.
Simply put, Young did not have what it takes to be a Major League leadoff hitter - or any hitter, really, in 2010. One could argue that the season reeks of small sample size, but my money says he'll need to make drastic improvements with the bat to be anything more than a pinch runner who gets some spot starts. He has a lot of tools, and seemingly the desire to be a quality big leaguer, but another season with a .244/.312/.285 line and a negative WAR (-0.3 BB-R, -0.4 FG) will not cut it.
Grade: C-. He gets a bit of a rookie break.
2011: It appears that Young will be competing for the starting second base job with Jonathan Herrera, Chris Nelson, and Jose Lopez. If he doesn't win the job, he may be out of a spot on the 25-man roster entirely and would wind up in Triple-A to start the season. That would leave him without any options remaining (PLEASE correct me if I'm wrong, WM), so 2011 is slated to be a make-or-break year for EYJ and the Rockies.