New York Mets manager Terry Collins has already had to play roster roulette at first base. As early as next week, he may have to do the same with his outfielders.
Chris Young, who has been on the disabled list since the season’s second game, is rehabbing at Triple-A Las Vegas, and is on track to return to the big club as soon as his stint on the DL is over. Young had a terrific spring, batting .310/.365/.500 with a home run and six RBIs. He then strained his quadriceps muscle at the end of the preseason. After taking Opening Day off, he tried to play in the Mets’ second game of the year, and immediately aggravated the injury pursuing a foul ball.
So when he comes back, where will he play? Collins hasn’t made any decisions known to the public just yet, but there are several scenarios.
The most likely scenario puts him in left field in place of Eric Young, Jr. Young started the season 0-for-12, but since then, he’s hit .333/.385/.458 with five stolen bases. Speed is his main skill — he’s average at best in every other area, despite his recent hot streak. However, he’s making himself hard to take out of the lineup.
Someone else who’s making a case to remain in the starting lineup is Juan Lagares. The second-year center fielder has continued to show the spectacular fielding and throwing skills that took the league by surprise last year. The question with Lagares is always about his ability to hit major league pitching. Well, he’s off to a terrific start, batting .297/.341/.486. He has shown signs of cooling off lately, and has had trouble laying off breaking stuff out of the zone. But for his defense alone, as long as he’s competent at the plate, he should be in center field every day.
Curtis Granderson is off to a bad start, having only manged five hits in 37 at-bats. Four of those hits were doubles and the other was a home run. So at least he’s made the most of them. He’s also walked six times. Despite his slow start, the Mets aren’t likely to bench him anytime soon. For one, he’s always been a streaky hitter who hits for a low batting average. For anther, he’s just one injury-plagued year removed from back-to-back 40-homer seasons. Furthermore, the Mets didn’t shell out $60 million over four years to have him ride the pine.
Young signed a one-year, $7.25 million deal with the Mets during the offseason. If healthy, he can provide some right-handed pop, and very good defense in the outfield. He’s a career .235/.315/.431 hitter with a propensity for striking out. But the Mets will deal with those flaws if he can be the 20-plus home run hitter he was from 2007-11 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He battled injuries in 2012 and 2013 which partially led to subpar performances each of those years.
If he has a bounce-back season at the plate, he could be a secret weapon for the Mets. If he does play left field, it would give the Mets one of the best defensive outfields in baseball. That’s probably where he will end up.
Collins loves the speed Eric Young brings to the Mets, and he’ll still have to find playing time for him. A strict platoon doesn’t make much sense, since switch-hitting EY’s strongest side is the right side, and Chris Young is a right-handed hitter.
The outfield carousel could be in full rotation all year, barring trades or injuries. If all four players respond well, it could be a pleasant problem for the Mets. If they don’t respond well, the Mets are going to have another positional headache.