The Mets posted a short video of Eric Young, Jr today who said that his favorite position to play is leadoff.
While not exactly a position, his point was that he’ll play wherever the Mets ask him to as long as it’s everyday and he’s batting first in the batting order.
Terry Collins said Monday that if Young shows in camp that he get on base more frequently, the team will have to find a spot for him in the lineup because he has the ability to change their offense (Kernan, Feb. 3).
In the event Young does not hit leadoff, Chris Young or Ruben Tejada could end up in the top spot. Juan Lagares’ name was not mentioned as a possible leadoff hitter.
In 2013, Young batted .251 with a .318 OBP in 91 games with the Mets. Lagares, over 121 games, hit .242 with a .281 OBP in his first taste of the majors.
When batting leadoff last season, in 122 games between the Rockies and Mets, Young hit .254 with a .318 OBP.
The Mets really haven’t had a solid leadoff hitter since Jose Reyes left town. The latest news is that Collins has stated on multiple occasions that Eric Young Jr is his preference out of the leadoff spot in 2014. Not many fans were enamored with this news when it broke, mainly because it seems like this choice would come at the expense of current defensive dynamo and fan favorite, Juan Lagares.
Speed is extremely overrated when it comes to the leadoff hitter, and although it helps, is not necessary. The most important thing the leadoff hitter has to do is get on base so that the better hitters in the middle of the lineup can drive them home. Speed should be reserved for the areas of the lineup where manufacturing of runs is necessary (the back end).
Let’s remember that a leadoff hitter is only guaranteed to hit leadoff one time in a game, but will also see the most plate appearances, so you want a solid offensive player in that spot. The more successful they are, the more times your better hitters in the middle of the order will get to the plate.
When it comes to Murphy, he seems like a great option, but when you look at his on base percentage from last season, he was only one point ahead of Young (Murphy .319 and Young .318). If you give me the Murphy from 2012, when his OBP was .332, I would agree that Murphy should be leadoff over Young. But based on 2013, I would say Young’s speed gives him an edge when the OBP is that close. Murphy is also one of the Mets better hitters, so keeping him in the two-hole would be the best move.
Now let’s look at Duda. Duda is a leadoff hitter in a cleanup hitter’s body. There is just no other way to put it. Duda has the best OBP out of the three candidates listed in this post, and he had 55 walks in 384 plate appearances. To put that into perspective, Murphy and Young combined only had 67 walks between the two of them. If Duda were to hit leadoff for the Mets, he would be the largest leadoff hitter in history, by a hefty 35 pounds. The move would also bring tons of scrutiny from the media as they would be sure to complain about Duda’s speed every time he comes to the plate.
Please don’t take any of this as me saying I think Duda should be the leadoff hitter. I am truly perplexed, and I’m sure the Mets coaching staff is as well. It’s much easier to make a decision writing comfortably from my couch with my kids sitting here watching Dora the Explorer. Let’s call a spade a spade—the Mets don’t have a prototypical leadoff hitter. Everyone mentioned in this discussion has their flaws.
If you asked Bill James, he may say Duda is the best option. If you ask the fans, they might tell you Murphy is the best option. If you ask the manager, he says Young is the best option, and that’s really all that matters. Collins gets paid the big bucks to make these decisions, but I wouldn’t be totally against him thinking outside of the box and having Duda in the leadoff spot at this point.