Up the Middle: Eric Young Jr.

I admit I get wrapped up in the winter meetings. Before they even started, a big time second baseman named Robinson Cano was already spoken for. I could talk about the ramifications there, but I think it’s been covered. Instead, I’m going to go out on a sturdy limb based on some of the rumors I’ve heard floating around this week. Apparently the Mets are pushing Daniel Murphy hard in trade talks. If that is indeed the case and a deal gets done, Eric Young Jr. could be your starting second basemen in New York on Opening Day.

EY2 was really productive for the Mets as a sparkplug leadoff hitter after being traded from the Rockies. Consequently, they seem set on finding a way to work him into the everyday lineup. Everyday at bats are really the key here, as the Mets have already signed both Chris Young and Curtis Granderson in the outfield. I’ve seen two projections already for EY2, and one has him playing a full season while the other has him starting a modest 44 games. There are also rumors that Murphy could get moved to first base with an Ike Davis trade, which opens second base for Young. UPDATE: Davis has been all over the Mets rumors the past day or so. Either way, if EY2 can indeed get a playing time boost through Murphy moving off of the position, there are two main reasons why I absolutely love him for fantasy:

1. He’d quickly gain the coveted “dual eligibility” one of which being middle infield

2. He contributes mightily to a roto category (steals) that is hard to come by

In Colorado, Young bounced around and never really got a steady role, either because of defensive concerns or just depth chart burial. His speed was always there, but the lack of consistent playing time really hindered his fantasy value despite his wheels. We got teased a little in 2011 when he stole 27 bases with an 88% success rate. That was in just 229 plate appearances as well. Factor in his 17 steals in Triple-A that year and voila!, we have 44 steals in 504 plate appearances. That’s eerily similar to the 46 steals he accrued last year in 539 plate appearances. Any time a player steals bags at that clip people tend to take notice. Those 46 swipes were good for second most in all of baseball behind Jacoby Ellsbury.

After the trade allowed Young to meet the Mets, it was as if the new surroundings breathed life into Young with a big boost in playing time. Batting leadoff and starting in the outfield on a regular basis gave Young the opportunity to showcase his best asset. He stole 38 bags in just over 400 PA for the Mets. At 28 years old, Young still has plenty of gas in the tank, so he doesn’t fall into the declining speed category yet. 40+ steals, especially from a middle infielder, are extremely valuable.

After covering steals for Razzball over the better part of the last year, I’ve learned to view them as a precious commodity. Rostering value plays like the Rajai Davis, Jarrod Dyson, Eric Young types can make a big difference for a fantasy team. Billy Hamilton and Jacoby Ellsbury will be getting a lot of well deserved attention leading up to the 2014 season, but don’t sleep on EY2 especially if the Mets decide to hand him the keys to second base.

Mike also writes for Razzball. You can follow him on the Twitter @643ball

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