Eric Young Jr. ready to mentor and compete
While pitchers and catchers were reporting to the Ed Smith Stadium complex ten days ago, the Orioles front office staff were busy signing a veteran outfielder to a minor league deal. Eric Young Jr. received an invite to major league spring training after signing a one-year deal worth an undisclosed amount.
Entering his 11th major league season, Young was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 30th round of the 2003 Amateur Draft. He spent ten years in the Rockies organization before being traded to the New York Mets in 2013. Young was granted free agency in December 2014, then spent time with the Atlanta Braves before making a return to the Mets.
After he was granted free agency for the second time in a full calendar year, Young made some appearances for the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers before becoming a free agent again and signing with the Yankees. He played in 88 games with the Angels from 2017-2018 before becoming a free agent again and finding a home with the Orioles.
Young, 33, is thrusted into the mix of outfield competition, trying to find himself a spot on the roster. If he makes the team, he would become the oldest player on the 40-man roster, in front of 32-year-old’s, Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis.
As versatile as they come, Young has played each position in the outfield over his decade-long stint in the majors and has even spent some time at second base early in his career. While primarily positioning himself on the outfield grass, when Young was asked yesterday morning what he brings to the Orioles, his response was one with the team’s best interest in mind.
“Anything they ask of me,” young told the media. “You know, always people ask what position do you play and I go, ‘what do you need?’ I think the easiest way to make a team, to help a team, is by being versatile and by being able to go out there and play any position that’s asked of you.”
Carrying a career dWAR of -1.7, Young still has an opportunity to be an asset in camp by helping the younger players taking part in various drills beside him. Young told the media he can, “Teach them how to be a true professional. [There’s] a good group of guys around here. There’s a lot of talented young players. All they need is experience and hopefully I can help them along the way get used to the big leagues.”
“A-hundred-sixty-two is a long season,” he said. “Sometimes you can get high on yourself, [or] too low on yourself and you definitely don’t want to have those type of emotions – especially here in Spring Training – so try to keep the nerves down and make sure the guys are out there having fun and letting their talents show.”
Young was left off the 2015 Mets postseason roster as the team made it to the World Series but lost to the Kansas City Royals. His last postseason appearance was back in 2009, with the Rockies in the National League Divisional Series. There’s no mistake about it though, Young didn’t choose to come to the Orioles because of the chance the team has to make the postseason.
He told the media yesterday morning he was, “Excited about the opportunity – not only to be able to work and share my experiences with the young players – but also still get an opportunity to play at the highest level.”
With Trey Mancini and Cedric Mullins projected to be the Opening Day left field and center field starters, respectively, Young’s best shot at an outfield position could be in right field, or as the utility outfielder. Joining the likes of Joey Rickard, DJ Stewart, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander, Young is fortunate for the opportunity he has to compete for a position, in a wide-open camp under a new coaching staff.
“Anytime you lace them up and get between the lines, you just want a chance. I think there’s a lot of opportunity here, especially here in Baltimore right now this time of year. [It] made my decision easy to come here so I can come out here and show what I do and have fun out there.”
Realizing he’s joined a rebuilding franchise, Young still sees the competitive mentality that’s being taught throughout camp. “They’re hungry,” he said yesterday morning of the new coaching staff.
“Everybody’s hungry, everybody has the same mindset. You want to go out there, get the games rolling and making sure everybody’s out there comfortable and ready to play. The coaching staff is hungry and the front-office [is] just as hungry as the players are to go out there and prove what they can do. Once everybody’s on the same page, I think great things can happen.”