I'm writing this article with the assumption that at some point Josh Rutledge is going to be called back up. He's hitting well in Triple-A and he was the Opening Day second baseman for a reason. I'm also assuming that when Rutledge is recalled he will replace one of three players, Eric Young Jr, DJ LeMahieu, or Jonathan Herrera. Things could change between now and the time Rutledge is called up, but at this point, who should Rutledge usurp?
Eric Young Jr.
Let's first take a look at what each of the three candidates bring to the table, starting with Eric Young Jr. EY2 brings a career .260/.328/.341 slash line (.AVG/.OBP/.SLG). Young Jr., like the rest of the candidates provides virtually no power. When he's in a good zone he can provide his fair share of doubles, but management has stressed a ground ball approach with him so he can utilize his biggest tool, speed.
EY2 can create absolute havoc with speed, the problem is you can't steal first base or in Young's case this season, you can't plain steal at all very well. Young has only stolen six bags this year and been caught four times, his career stolen base percentage with the Rockies, (71%) is much higher. For Young to utilize his biggest tool he has to be on the base paths consistently, but his .284 OBP so far this year has really neutralized his speed.
The final point on Young is his defense. Unfortunately, Young seems to be a man without a position defensively. He tried the infield and it was deemed that the outfield would suit him better, but after watching him struggle defensively in vast Coors Field, it begs the question, where does he belong?
A best-case scenario for Young is what the Rockies saw out of him last year in nearly 200 at-bat's. His slash line was .316/.377/.448 and he stole 14 bases being caught only twice. If he can find a way to get at or near that level of production then you live with his defensive miscues and keep him on the team. If not...well, if EY2 goes when Rutledge comes up, then the Rockies very well might lose his services for good because he has no minor league options and would have to pass through waivers to get to AAA.
LeMahieu brings a career .281/.321/.371 slash line. Like Young, LeMahieu doesn't have much pop. Once again he's a guy that can get some extra base hits, but he certainly isn't hitting the ball over the fence with any regularity. What DJ lacks in speed compared to EY2 he makes up for with a superb glove and smooth fielding approach. DJ can play 2B, 3B, and even SS if needed.
I think at his best DJ can hit around .300 with solid defense. He's never going to wow you, but he can be a solid major leaguer. His best role at this point would be that of a utility infielder and late game defensive replacement at second base, seeing as he would never replace Nolan Arenado or Troy Tulowitzki defensively, unless it was a laugher.
Is LeMahieu an every day big league second baseman at this point? I personally don't think so, he proved in Triple-A that he can swing the bat, but at this point his offense hasn't left Triple-A with him.
Herrera is the guy that just keeps finding his way onto the 25 man roster. His career slash line .259/.324/.326 doesn't necessarily provide the answer as to why he keeps landing on the team, but he does. He plays decent defense at 3B,SS, and 2B. When he's "on" at the plate he can hit around .280 and be relied on to put the ball in play and not strikeout a ton.
Herrera like LeMahieu has some value because of his infield versatility and solid defense. But also like DJ, Jonny is leaving a good amount to be desired at the plate, with little or no pop. Herrera's x-factor is that for whatever reason the Rockies seem to win when he's in the starting lineup. RhodeIslandRoxfan did some digging on this subject in February and it's quite mind boggling.
Herrera and Carlos Gonzalez are childhood friends so I have always wondered if CarGo has a "no-demote Herrera" clause in his contract. I really do wonder though, if the club and management feel that Herrera's biggest impact on the team is helping the team chemistry. I don't mean that as a knock on Jonny because chemistry is an important and often underlooked facet of most good teams.
It's hard to say who deserves to stay up based on how they are all currently performing. None of them scream to be kept up at this point. Young Jr brings speed, DJ brings defense and Herrera brings intangibles. I tend to feel that the guy with the biggest upside is the guy you keep. In this case that would be EY2. While he has struggled recently and doesn't play any defensive position well I still think his speed is something that can always be a weapon, whether it's late in games or the occasional spot start. Also, there's the possibility that once EY2 leaves Colorado's 25 man roster, he'll be picked up by another team.
Between Herrera and LeMahieu it's a more difficult decision. LeMahieu certainly has more potential at this point, but Herrera has been on this team for a reason and clearly there's something there that us fans just might not see. And for whatever reason the Rockies do seem to play fairly well when he starts. Also, the Rockies seem to prefer Herrera as Tulo's replacement at SS over LeMahieu. Tulo will need his occasional rest and if Jonny is better suited at short then he might be a better fit with the club to be the back up there.
I take Herrera over DJ on this one by an eyelash. Maybe also for sake of argument, but if the Rockies aren't confident in playing LeMahieu at SS then Jonny warrants a spot on the team for that simple fact alone.