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Wednesday Rockpile: Is there Room for Eric Young in a Crowded Outfield?

Eric Young Jr was the 4th most valuable Rockies position player last year by fWAR. The goal this year should be to get him as many plate appearances as possible, no matter where he plays in the field.


When evaluating the 2012 season, there was one positional group that was clearly the team's strength - the outfield. Ranking Colorado's top position players by fWAR shows that outfielders occupied the top four slots - and none of those four outfielders was $10.5 million man Michael Cuddyer. In rWAR, four of the top five are outfielders, with Carlos Gonzalez sliding down to 5th overall.

A commonality in these lists is the man at number 4, Eric Young Jr. Young played in only 98 games and 196 plate appearances, yet accumulated 1.8 WAR while hitting .316/.377/.448 and (surprisingly given the difficulties of other Rockies) providing positive defensive value in the field. No wonder then that Young placed 4th on Carson Cistulli's list of Best Players Without a Starting Role (ZiPS Edition).

Two other Rockies made that list, Nolan Arenado (6) and Reid Brignac (8). Andrew Fisher elocuted why Arenado shouldn't be Colorado's starting 3B on Opening Day in yesterday's Rockpile and I'm leery about Brignac's ZiPS projection simply because his last two years were pretty bad, but Young stands out as a player who absolutely needs to get more of a look this year.

After all, he's a pre-arbitration (read, cheap) player who is out of minor league options, so he has to be on the active roster unless the Rockies want to try and pass him through waivers. There's no denying that Young is a spark plug at the top of the order with the potential to be a very effective weapon spread over a full season's worth of plate appearances, but the problem is that he's not likely to get them this year - at least not in the outfield.

The ZiPS system, which projects a player's production over a full season's worth of plate appearances, has all five players projected for 1.8 fWAR or more. Our own Heltonfan's NEIFI system (which is much stingier) isn't as sanguine, but it still thinks all five outfielders are capable of a 1 win season. In other words, the team's outfield group of Gonzalez, Cuddyer, Dexter Fowler, Tyler Colvin, and Young is certainly a strength. There are only so many PAs for a 5th outfielder, even with Cuddyer and Colvin often playing first base, so Young is likely to be squeezed out of the picture there.

Enter Eric Young, Infielder. Seriously.

His dad is still Colorado's best known second baseman, so it seemed like a foregone conclusion to Rockies fans when his son came up that he'd be handling second every day. Problem was, he wasn't very good at it during his stints from 2009-2011, which led to his exile into the outfield. Now he's getting time in the outfield, at second, and even at third base - which he's never played before.

If that sounds like a defensive disaster to you...well, how much worse than last year could it really be? After all, Chris Nelson and Jordan Pacheco both graded out as bottom five defenders in the league at the hot corner. I'm all for figuring out if EY can sustain his offensive productivity in extended plate appearances in 2013, because Young and Fowler at the top of the lineup is a potent combination - speed and OBP.


Jorge De La Rosa wasn't happy with his spring debut yesterday. I put very little stock into spring results, so that one game doesn't worry me. I do want to see that he's healthy and ready to pitch at a high level though. Kyle Domingos will have more on that later today.

Speaking of De La Rosa, Owen Perkins writes that the health of him and Jhoulys Chacin will be key in the Rockies' 2013 success. Obviously. Chacin had himself an encouraging 6 batter debut yesterday, also described in the article.

Troy Renck does a nice piece on Dante Bichette, hitting coach and armchair psychologist.

Matt Snyder of CBS Sports has a capsule preview of the Rockies. Nothing we don't already know, but it's a good summary of where to set your expectations in 2013.

David Schoenfield of ESPN writes about NL West One Hit Wonders. Any list that gets me thinking about Kevin Ritz is all right with me, but Marvin Freeman was clearly a better choice here.

If you trust MLB 13 the Show, the Rockies will be the 13th best team in the big leagues this year - 2nd place in the division to the Dodgers and well ahead of the defending champion Giants. I think the strangest ranking is the Rockies' defense at 13 - especially since it was among the very worst in MLB last year.

Finally, MLB Trade Rumors aggregated feedback from quite a few front office personnel (including the Rockies' Bill Geivett) about how high-schoolers can get into the front office.