It seems just about every single major leaguer is capable of being a superstar for short periods of time. The great ones take what’s been so good, and extend it over longer periods of time. This is a fairly simple concept. But even Major League Baseball has a way of convoluting things. For example, if a 30-something year old minor league journeyman has a good month in the majors, it’s a hot streak, but if a 22 year old does it, it’s a breakout. Then there’s the post-hype sleeper every team has, that manages to put it together later in their career than expected. This season we’ve seen Justin Smoak and Yonder Alonso both breakthrough, just five years later than anyone thought.
But at what point do we start taking a performance seriously? At what point has a player turned the proverbial corner and become a legitimate starter in the major leagues?
I ask this specifically in the case of Eric Young Jr.
Young wasn’t supposed to be that good. He wasn’t drafted until the 30th round in the draft, and even then his performance in Rookie Ball left a lot ot be desired. The most notable thing about him was that his dad was a good ball player. But then as a 21 year old, Young stole 87 bases in A Ball, and he was on the map. Three years later, he found himself in the majors.
But Young never got a full shake in the majors. He’d spend the majority of his career in a bench or platoon role, never fully settling into an everyday role, with the exception of his 2013 season, when he stole 41 bags.
Enter 2017, and Eric Young is a 32 year old signing with the Angels on a minor league pact. Not just that, but Young has signed with a team that has Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, Cameron Maybin and Ben Revere on the major league roster as outfield options. Young was buried on the depth chart, and it would take more than one injury for him to get any degree of consistent playing time in the majors.
So he started the year in AAA, and it wasn’t a short stint. It was a solid 44 games, more than a third of the way through the minor league season before he got the call. But over those 44 games, Eric Young Jr. hit .354 with a .419 OBP. Sample size? I think not. That’s an extended hot streak, which reflects a player that’s fully ready for an everyday job in the major leagues. If we were to extrapolate his numbers across a full year in AAA, Young would’ve finished with 30 doubles 9 triples 15 home runs and 45 SB.
But alas, he got the call to Anaheim, and was initially expected to serve as the 4th outfielder behind Ben Revere. But Young has taken advantage of his time. Over 16 games, he’s hit .333/.429 with 3 doubles 3 home runs and 6 stolen bases. 16 games still comes with the same size stigma, but when combined with the 44 games in AAA and we suddenly get the picture of a player that can hit over .300 at the major league level. He’s leap frogged Shane Robinson and Ben Revere on the depth chart, and while Cameron Maybin has been highly productive as the starting LF this year, we have to wonder if Young may start to take at bats away from him as well.
I surmise that it’s time for the Angels to be the team that gives Eric Young Jr. a chance at everyday at bats. Find a way to get his bat in the lineup everyday. When Trout returns, he’s the starting CF, bar none. In fact, Maybin should be the unquestioned starter in LF as well, and Calhoun’s track record speaks for itself in RF. But Pujols hasn’t done enough at DH to guarantee at bats, regardless of pay check. Moreover, Danny Espinosa hasn’t done nearly enough at second base to prevent Young from replacing him there. Young hasn’t played second since last season, but it’s time the Angels considered sacrificing defense at 2B to keep Young in the lineup.
I believe that it’s time we took Eric Young Jr.’s 2017 line seriously.