It’s unlikely that New York Mets fans have been counting the days until Eric Young Jr. returned to the lineup, which he did on Monday against the St. Louis Cardinals after missing more than three weeks. But despite his modest numbers and disappointing performance over the first two months of the season, leading many to believe that he is not an everyday player in the majors, the return of Young Jr. is good news for the Mets as it will help to stabilize their lineup, at least for the time being.
With both Young Jr. and Juan Lagares on the DL for the past two weeks, the Mets have had a revolving door of leadoff men and have failed to find a viable replacement. While that hasn’t been the biggest issue the Mets have had over the past two weeks, it’s been a contributing factor in the team’s profound offensive struggles. If nothing else, Young Jr. returning from the DL gives the Mets a prototypical leadoff man, and even though his on-base percentage leaves something to be desired, at various times this season, Young Jr. has provided a spark for the Mets’ sluggish lineup. Even though Young Jr. hit ninth in his return, his speed did provide a spark, and he should soon return to the leadoff spot.
The return of Young Jr. also gives manager Terry Collins a chance to keep Chris Young out of the lineup, as he has arguably been the biggest detriment to the Mets’ lineup. For the time being, Young Jr. can handle left field on a regular basis while the Mets platoon Young and Matt den Dekker in center field with Curtis Granderson in right field. Another possibility would be to play either Young Jr. or Granderson in center field and continue to get Bobby Abreu regular starts after he’s become a meaningful contributor to the Mets’ lineup.
Either way, the return of Young Jr. will help the Mets by giving them a viable leadoff hitter they can put at the top of the order on a daily basis while also allowing them to keep Young on the bench. Young Jr. is not a great solution to the Mets’ problems, but he should help to stabilize their lineup and give them a spark at the top of the order. And until Lagares returns from the DL, there’s no reason why Young Jr. shouldn’t be playing almost every day.