Eric Young Steals Our Hearts

Ever since Eric Young stole 87 bases in 118 attempts in Single-A back in 2006 with the Rockies organization, fantasy owners have been salivating over his fantasy prospects. With respectable strikeout rates and consistently high BABIP marks coupled with playing half his future home games in offense-inflating Coors Field, we simply couldn’t wait for his first opportunity at a full-time job. Unfortunately, that never really came to pass. After being shuffled between second base and the outfield throughout his career, Young finally recorded more than 200 at-bats in a season and earned a smidge over $9 in fantasy value, good for 49th among outfielders.

While Young had always shown excellent wheels — he had stolen 62 bases in 601 at-bats prior to this season — he never played enough to be considered anything more than a cheap speed option in NL-Only leagues. This year began no differently, as he was once again a utility player for the Rockies. But this time, his stolen base pace declined and without any contributions anywhere else, it made him close to worthless even in NL-Only leagues.

Then in a desperate move to fix their weak outfield, the Mets swooped in and acquired Young in mid-June, immediately installing him as their lead-off man and every day left fielder. This instantly boosted Young’s fantasy value and made him worth considering in shallower 12-team mixed formats.

For those pouncing on Young after his move to the Big Apple, you were duly rewarded as he made us quickly forget his disappointing steals total year-to-date and went on a stolen base rampage with 38 successful swipes in 45 attempts. Unfortunately, he did absolutely nothing else to delight his owners, so he was literally a one-category contributor.

Yesterday, I unveiled the stolen base aging curve and the orange line is where we should look to when analyzing Young in that context. Young will play most of the 2014 season as a 29 year old, which is perhaps the exact age where players lose the most stolen bases from one year to the next. For a guy with no power and a .258 career batting average, that’s an ominous sign.

The biggest leap of faith future fantasy owners will have to take is that the Mets will continue trotting him out there on a daily basis. He sports a weak .299 career wOBA, while Steamer projects him to post a .319 OBP. That’s no one’s idea of a guy that a team that should be rebuilding should be batting at the top of the lineup, let alone playing every day. So his playing time doesn’t appear to be very secure. This is of course no surprise given that he was rarely able to find a whole lot of it in Colorado, which spurred his move to the Mets to begin with.

It’s unlikely that Young will be a highly coveted hitter in fantasy league drafts next year, so his potential to be overvalued is rather limited. However, there is significant risk here between the possible stolen base decline and playing time question marks. As such, only acquire him if you’re paying for less than 550 at-bats and 40+ steals.

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

7 Responses to “Eric Young Steals Our Hearts”

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  1. Dirty Platypus says:

    Maybe I’m alone in noticing this, but throughout his Rockies career, it always appeared to me that he posted weaker OBPs as a part timer than a full-timer. I’ve had this guy on and off my dynasty league for years, where every season he’s awful until August/September, when the Rockies would finally allow him regular at bats and he’d just absolutely explode. I’d then keep him over the off season and watch them sign/promote someone to put him back on the bench.

    I can live with a .320-.340 OBP if it nets me ~60 SB if he manages 600 or so AB. And if the idea of the Mets giving him time at 2B again comes to fruition, let the hilarity ensue. I really don’t care if he’s a butcher at the position, as I’m not a Mets fan and defense does nothing for me in my league, aside from provide eligibility.

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  2. jdbolick says:

    For someone who has that much speed and hits so many ground balls, his BABIP is disappointing. He simply doesn’t have the bat to justify a starting job.

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  3. Wobatus says:

    Could be a notgraphs piece:

    Alderson says Young will be Mets left-fielder in 2014, Alderson’s All-Stars set to lead its standard 5×5 league in steals category.

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    • jdbolick says:

      For now, but the Mets are obviously still trying to add outfielders. If they do sign Granderson or someone else then Lagares isn’t the one who will be displaced.

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  4. Karsen says:

    Would you move Brantley for EY in a Traditional 5×5 Roto?

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    • Well Brantley was more valuable this year and this was the best you could possibly expect from EY. So although I expect Brantley to be less valuable next year, that still might only drop him down to EY’s peak. So no, I don’t make that trade.

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