The Mets did all they could to relegate Eric Young Jr. to a smaller role in 2014. They brought in Curtis Granderson to replace Marlon Byrd. Chris Young was imported on a one-year deal to fill in at either left or center field. Juan Lagares was given an opportunity to thrive as an elite defensive center fielder.
All that didn't stop us from seeing a whole lot of Young Jr. this season. The left fielder logged 316 plate appearances and batted .229/.299/.311 with 30 stolen bases. Thanks to Young Jr. being more effective on defense than in 2013 and only being caught stealing six times, he was worth 1.2 fWAR. I suppose that made him a better player than Chris Young in 2014.
I think I overrated how bad Young Jr. was because of how good other people thought he was. Terry Collins loved putting him in the leadoff spot despite that horrible on-base percentage. Commentators loved the way he hustled and bustled and showed off those socks. He's certainly does have a good attitude and appears to be a team player, but none of these things make Young Jr. more than a decent bench player.
Especially when he's not stealing bases. After swiping 17 bags before injuring his hamstring in late May, Young Jr. stole just 13 bases after his mid-June return. Promotions of Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker prevented Young Jr. from playing full-time in the latter months of the season, but you'd still like to see more action out of a guy whose calling card is speed on the bases.
As for Young Jr.'s bat, it was consistently bad throughout the season. The only month in which he posted an OPS over .700 was June, when he hit .300/.364/.375 in just 40 at-bats. The good news for fans of Young Jr. is that his outfield defense went from 6.3 runs below average in 2013 (according to FanGraphs) to 5.7 runs above average in 2014. His defense has been up and down throughout his major league career, so we can't be sure if Young Jr. will continue being a plus defender in 2015.
Desire 2015 Role: Fifth outfielder who can cause some trouble late in games.
Expected 2015 Role: Probably starts occasionally because the Mets don't have a prototypical "leadoff guy."