I grew up watching the Chicago Cubs on WGN and Shawon Dunston is one of my all time favorite players. In my baseball card collection I have a book just for Cubs cards and Dunston, Mark Grace, Andrew Dawson, Kerry Wood and, yes, even Mark Prior have pages dedicated to their cards only.
Dunston wasn’t an offensive force by any means. He did play 18 years in the big leagues and only OPS’d .712 for his career. In only five of those 18 seasons did he finish with an OPS+ over 100 (100 being league average). He stole double digit bags 10 times in those 18 years and if you were selecting an All-Star team he probably wasn’t on it (only two invites in his career), but, man, COULD HE THROW! That one aspect of his game, that freaking hand cannon he called an arm…might not be the best use of one of the greatest Pulp Fiction lines…was awesome. To this day I compare every shortstop’s arm to Dunston’s.
Eric Young Jr. is this kind of player for me. He doesn’t field particularly well and his career OPS+ of 75 says he can’t hit. He gets on-base OK at a career .340 clip but his career slugging is a measly .342. BUT THE DUDE CAN RUN! After the All-Star game I wrote that I would love to see a skills competition sort of like those old NFL competitions: I want a bracketed “Fastest Man in Baseball” 90 foot dash (or 40 yards, whatever). And I might put a lot of money on EY2.
Now here we are in the middle of August and many fantasy websites are declaring EY2 the hottest hitter in baseball, and he might be. Going back to August 4th EY2 has started 10 games (pinch hit in an 11th) and accumulated 50 plate appearances. During this stretch of baseball EY2 has a triple slash of .478/.510 and…wait for it…wait… SLUGGING .739!!! During this stretch of baseball he has three doubles and three home runs! In the 610 plate appearances prior to these last 50 he has two home runs. What gives?
He hasn’t been hanging around with the Melk Man, has he?
That is in 100% jest, I hope you know. I kid, I kid.
After this hot streak EY2 is now batting 323/.384/.466 with a 115 OPS+ in 2012. Well above his .267/.340/.342 and 75 OPS+ for his career. Many say that to truly evaluate a player in baseball they need to have around 1,000 plate appearances before any true conclusion can be made about that player’s bat. I don’t think, for one second, that EY2 has any chance of hitting 10 home runs a year but his career on-base percentage in the minor leagues (over 3,000 plate appearances) is .388. His .384 OBP this year isn’t a lot higher than previous big league seasons and pretty much right inline with his minor league numbers.
If EY2 can get on-base nearly 40% of the time then the Rockies do need to find a place to play him everyday. The one thing I love about EY2 is his speed and if he is on-base that often he will get to showcase it and he has to be worth 40 steals a year if he gets 600 plate appearances. He does have 61 career stolen bases in 660 big league plate appearances and many of those steals came late as a pinch runner when teams know he is going to attempt a swipe.
Where do the Rockies play him? That’s a tough question. He doesn’t profile as a corner outfielder because those positions are usually reserved for power. He looks like a second baseman in size and no way his glove plays at third base. After watching Josh Rutledge over the past few weeks that kid needs to see regular time at second base and team up with Troy Tulowitzki to possibly combine to create one of the most powerful middle infield combos in baseball. He has to play right field, even though his weak arm makes him an even less likely candidate for the position.
Look around at some of the best right fielders in baseball: Jose Bautista, Hunter Pence, Mike Stanton and Jay Bruce lead the list and are all big time power producers with above average arms. But the Rockies can’t play him in center because Dexter Fowler owns that position and in left you have Carlos Gonalez and he isn’t going anywhere, or should he? Traditionally the best arm in the outfield is in right field because more balls are put into play there and you need a strong arm to throw someone out going to third or home plate (farther from right field to third then from left field). But at Coors Field left field is harder to play because it is so expansive…but couldn’t EY2′s speed play well in right field at Coors? He has the speed, more than enough of it, to cover all of that space. And half of the games the Rockies play it doesn’t favor left field as being so much bigger than right, so CarGo’s superior arm can come into play in right. *Pot shot warning* And it isn’t like CarGo’s half-assed jogging play in left field has been a good fit this year for all of that space at Coors.
For the rest of the year EY2 should play left field and move CarGo to right, where his arm is better suited (who doesn’t want to see him gun down guys trying to go first to third on singles to right?). And while we are at it move Rutledge to second base now; no sense in him getting reps at short when it is clear to everyone (or at least it should be) that Tulo has that position locked down.
7 – EY2
4 – Rutledge
8 – Dex
9 – CarGo
2 – Rosario
3 – Cuddyer
5 – Pacheco
6 – Herrera (or if LaMahieu can play here)
1 – pitcher
When Tulo returns he bats fourth with CarGo and Dex both moving up and dropping Rutledge to sixth in the order.
Where should EY2 play? Should he play everyday? Le me know in the comments.
Follow Travis on Twitter @TravisLay_BSB