Registering a .299 average, 118 runs, and 58 steals in 2009, Eric Young, Jr. was virtually indispensable to the Sky Sox lineup last season.
However, due to a tight logjam muddling the infield, Young finds himself in a dogfight for the 25th slot on the Rockies' Opening Day roster.
Though - only one month ago - Young seemed a lock to split time with Clint Barmes at second base, the acquisitions of infielders Melvin Mora and Jason Giambi have cast considerable doubt over his candidacy. As Mora (1 yr, $1.3 m) and Giambi (1 yr, $1.75 m) are each signed to expensive major league deals, Young becomes expendable - albeit somewhat unfairly - due to his two remaining minor league options.
But these recent developments need not be regarded with disdain. Extra time in Triple-A will further aid Young's progression as a hitter, giving him a longer, more successful career. In addition, should he remain on the Triple-A roster throughout much of 2010, it would add tremendous potency to an already infinitely talented ballclub.
Though best known for his rousing, breathtaking speed (87 SB in 2006; 73 SB in 2007), over the last few seasons, Young has tirelessly worked to add new dimensions to his game - the most recent being a matured approach in the batter's box.
Plate discipline and pitch recognition are quickly becoming strengths of his, which is further aiding the development of his power stroke. Already possessing the raw speed to steal 60-plus bases annually at the Major League level, with added selectivity and power, Young could eventually blossom into one of the better lead-off hitters in the game.
For this reason, the team is giving E.Y. a long, hard look during spring camp. And it shows - the second baseman leads the organization in at-bats (29), while tying for second in extra-base hits (3). Though his batting average sits at a sluggish .103, plenty of players struggle early on in March while they shake off the off season's rust. Rest assured, however, Young will soon rekindle his approach at the plate - ready to contribute at the onset of the regular season.
Still, short of a blistering Spring Training or an injury to one of the Rockies six infielders (Barmes, Tulowitzki, Mora, Stewart, Giambi, and Helton) E.Y. is likely to find himself on the outside looking in come April 6.
A Major League talent that may head up a Triple-A roster, Young could be a tremendous asset for this burgeoning Colorado Springs club - one poised to make a run at the PCL championship.
The Skinny: Young's elite combination of speed and plate discipline make him one of the most exciting prospects in Triple-A baseball. A prototypical top of the order bat, Young could emerge as one of the PCL's best leadoff hitters with the potential to plate 115 runs on the year.
What to Look For: If there's any development at the dish that Denver wants, it is to add a little more power while consistently making a bit more contact at the plate.
If E.Y. can drop his strikeout rate closer to 12 percent, maintain his walk rate, and reach double-digit home runs, he will quickly find himself atop a Major League lineup - with the potential to make a few All-Star teams. In short, few have his considerable potential.
Another welcome addition to Young's game would be an improvement in his glovework. Already possessing all the tools to one day be a phenomenal defensive second baseman, many pundits have pointed to the refinement of his glove as the probable next step in his evolution.
Eric Young, Jr. Quick Facts:
-Sky Sox All-Time Single-Season Record-Holder, Stolen Bases (58, 2009)
-Futures Game Selection, 2009
-Rockies' Draft Choice; 2003 June Draft, 30th Round (887th Overall)
Rockies' Top 10 Prospects
-2010 - COL (#6)
G - 30
AB - 57
PA - 61
HR - 1
RBI - 7
SB - 4
AVG - .246
OPS - .611