The Angels Have a Need, a Need for Speed!


Angels’ General Manager Jerry Dipoto and his staff have done a great job adding valuable depth to the Halos roster this winter, however the club still lacks a true speed threat. Outfielder/second baseman Eric Young Jr. was non-tendered by the New York Mets back in early December, and would be the perfect signing for the Halos.

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The 29-year-old speedster drew significant interest from clubs after being non-tendered, but he appears to be taking his time deciding where he will call home in 2015. The Texas Rangers were linked to Young back in December, but he likely is hoping to position himself with a team he can see steady playing time with next season.

A 30th round selection by the Colorado Rockies in 2003, Eric Young Jr. spent the first four seasons of his big league career as a part time player in Denver. The Rockies shipped him to the New York Mets during the 2013 season, and EY flourished in Flushing. Young saw consistent time for the first time in his career, the bulk of which in the Mets’ outfield. The light hitting Piscataway, NJ product posted a .242 batting average, with 2 home runs, 43 RBI’s, and a whopping 68 stolen bases across 654 at bats in a Mets’ uniform.

On the surface Eric Young’s numbers do not jump off the page, but a closer look reveals the immense value he would bring to the Halos in 2015. He is a switch hitter, lighting quick, and a versatile defender. The Angels currently only have one switch-hitter on their active roster, and EY’s ability to hit from both sides of the plate would give skipper Mike Scioscia a valuable option off the bench. His numbers are very similar the last two years from the right side and the left, hitting .237 left-handed and .242 right-handed. However, his career splits show he is more comfortable facing southpaws, hitting .261 over his career.

Eric Young has a track record of being one of the game’s premier stolen base threats when he is given consistent playing time, posting a career high 46 steals across 148 games in 2013. EY has tallied at least 27 stolen bases in three of the last four seasons. He has averaged 38 steals per season over the last two years, and has posted a career 81% stolen base percentage. The Angels do not have anyone coming up in the minors, or on their active roster that can match Young’s elite wheels. The Halos were burnt last October by the hectic style the Kansas City Royals ran the bases. Young could be a difference maker off the bench late in games for the Angels, providing the club with a stolen base or the chance to score on a single from second base. He could be used in a similar capacity to Jarrod Dyson and Terrance Gore of the Royals.

Currently, Grant Green is the only player on the Angels roster capable of playing multiple spots in the infield and outfield. That would change if Dipoto signed Eric Young Jr. He has mainly played left field during his career, but Young has experience at all three outfield spots and at second base. EY graded out as a plus defender in 2014, posting a 0.3 dWAR in nearly 600 innings. His 2.14 range factor per 9 innings over the last two seasons in left field crushed the league average of 1.83. His career 4.59 range factor per 9 innings at second base blows away Green’s 4.30. Josh Rutledge is the only player on the Halos roster with a higher range factor per 9 innings at second base during his career. I’m not suggesting Eric Young should play everyday at second base, but he would be a viable option for Scioscia to plug in the outfield or the infield in 2015.

I believe Eric Young Jr. is hoping to receive an offer guarenteeing consistent starts this season. He is unlikely to find that, but the Angels may be his best chance to earn substantial playing time. He could likely be had on a minor league deal with an invitation to Major League spring training. Dipoto could stress EY’s chance to compete for the starting second base job, and his value as a pinch runner on a Championship quality team during negotiations.

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According Angels’ beat writer Alden Gonzalez, Dipoto has all but given up on a reunion with second baseman Gordon Beckham. It is obvious that Eric Young would provide the Halos with more value than Johnny Giavotella or Taylor Featherston at second base in 2015. Whether he would be more useful than Green or Rutledge is debatable. Collin Cowgill and Dan Robertson are expected to compete for the fourth outfielder role, with Matt Joyce handling the designated hitter duties. Cowgill and Robertson are both capable players, and the winner of the competition in Tempe should play a big role in 2015. However, neither player has comparable speed to Young.

After being run out of Angel Stadium this past October by the Royals, the Angels need to add a player capable of swiping critical bags late in ball games. Eric Young Jr. is the solution. He would be an affordable signing, add depth in the infield and outfield, and be a useful switch-hitting option for Scioscia off the bench. EY’s game changing speed would light up the big A in 2015.

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