HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: Eric Young, Jr. #1 of the Colorado Rockies yells to the Rockies' dugout after stealing third base in the 11th inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on September 24, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Eric Christian Smith/Getty Images)
It's certainly no secret that prior to the 2011 season, the Rockies reportedly had a deal in place to bring Michael Young to Colorado in exchange for a prospect package that included (and was perhaps headlined by) the subject of this player review piece. It's also no secret that the deal fell through, supposedly due to the Rangers backing out at the last minute, and what followed was an MVP-caliber season with the bat for one Young and another disappointing campaign for the other.
Heading into 2011, Eric Young Jr. was likely expecting to start the season on the Rockies' 25-man roster. He performed about as expected in Spring Training, posting a decent OBP and a low slugging percentage in a small sample size, plus the team had always been in love with his perceived versatility. On top of that, Ian Stewart was injured during the first ST game and hadn't had a whole lot of reps prior to the start of the season, leading many to believe he would start the season on the DL or in the minors. Instead, the club elected to keep Stewart (as well as Jonathan Herrera, among others) on the big league roster and demote EYJ to Colorado Springs. Young responded by starting slowly amidst some rumors of pouting before eventually turning it on and finishing his minor league season with a .363/.454/.552 line in 223 at-bats. Those numbers earned him a call to the big leagues, as EYJ made his 2011 debut on May 27th against the Cardinals.
As the season carried on, Young proved to be the same player he had always been during his limited time in the big leagues - a low-OBP, low-power guy who couldn't play any defense but was a terror on the basepaths during the few occasions he actually reached. One encouraging sign is that Young posted a career-high in OBP (.342, which isn't actually all that bad considering the team for which he plays), and put up a rather decent-looking .297/.392/.391 line across 74 plate appearances in the season's final month.
Overall, Young finished 2011 with an 88 wRC+ - a figure that's still below average, but one that's also easily the best of his career. EYJ also swiped 27 bags, which led the club by a fairly wide margin. It's clear that he has made some improvements at the plate - albeit slight ones - but still has A LOT of work to do in the field. Young's advanced fielding metrics continued the pattern from previous seasons, showing him as below average everywhere on the diamond. He did improve some in the outfield, as his UZR/150 was just -4, a far cry from how bad the numbers looked during his two previous seasons. A much larger sample size is probably the reason for this, though.
Final 2011 grade, as well as what to expect in 2012, after the jump...
C. As mentioned above, Eric Young Jr. is a no-bat, no-glove guy who has made his way back to the big leagues solely because of his speed and seemingly above-average judgment of the strike zone. That's pretty much what he provided to the big club in 2011, and he gets a little bit of the "benefit of the doubt" treatment due to a strong finish and some confusion within the Rockies organization about where he actually belongs on a baseball field.
There is little reason to believe that Young is going to be much more than what he is right now, as he'll turn 27 in May and has probably had enough exposure at the big league level to give people an idea of what type of player he is. With that being said, there are some teams that have expressed interest in the young utility man, with the most recent being the New York Mets. If the Rockies don't end up dealing him, I imagine he could be in the mix for a utility spot, although the addition of Michael Cuddyer could hurt Young's case a little bit. Personally, I think he should be given a chance to work on his play at second base. If he responds well, it may not hurt the club to give him a crack at the position to begin the season, especially considering the other options currently on the roster.