The season is young and the sample sizes are small and many reactions to the action thus far on the field are emotional and knee-jerk. So keep those thoughts in mind when certain beat writers bury Jacoby Ellsbury while certain writers (waving hand) of your favorite Yankee site (this one, of course) do the same to Carlos Beltran. My emotional and knee-jerk reaction is that Chris Young needs to be playing every day.
Despite playing only 41 of his 1,055 Major League games as a right-fielder, I think we can all agree that Young is going to be the better defender between him and Beltran. Carlos Beltran, in my mind, has had a Hall of Fame career. He is going to in the top ten of the greatest center fielders to ever play the game. JAWS currently has him eighth. But he isn't that guy anymore and while his instincts may still be good in right, his body just isn't.
A combination of Young, Ellsbury and Brett Gardner bring the Yankees coverage in the outfield they have rarely seen before. I think we can all agree that Young is superior defensively right now.
The question then only remains if Chris Young can do more for the Yankees offensively than Carlos Beltran can. For those of you who remember Young's days as a member of the New York Mets, that idea might sound ridiculous. But it isn't as ridiculous as it might sound.
First, there is the reputation that Chris Young is much better against left-handed pitching than the other way around. His career splits bear that out. He is a career .358 wOBA guy against left-handed pitching and .311 against right-handed pitching. So, yes, he is much better against southpaws. His strikeout rate is four percentage points higher against right-handed pitching and his walk rate is five percentage points less.
But let's consider this for a moment. If all the Yankees got out of Chris Young was his career average of a .311 wOBA against right-handed pitching, that beats Carlos Beltran's .310 wOBA against ALL pitching last year. Yes, Carlos Beltran was hurt last year. Yes, he had a bad elbow. But there is the pesky short sample size of his performance thus far this year. If I was to give Carlos Beltran a scouting report, it would be, "Creaky."
Obviously, it is easy to get all wrapped up in Chris Young after a night where he came to the plate five times and hit a double, a homer and a single and walked the other two times. His career numbers suggest that an extended amount of playing time would show him declining to his career norms. But even before tonight's game, Chris Young has put together a .921 OPS for the Yankees since he joined the team late last season.
With Alex Rodriguez slowing down a bit in the last few games, Chris Young is the hottest Yankee hitter in the lineup right now. He has to play, at least as long as this hot streak is going on. Let Beltran give Alex Rodriguez a blow against tough right-handed pitching once in a while. Let him see if he can work out some kinks in the batting cage. But put Chris Young in the lineup because right now, he is the better fielder and the better batter.
It is probably stupid to give up on Beltran after fourteen games. The knee jerk reaction is to remember Alfonso Soriano last season and draw comparisons. But right now...if I'm making the lineup card out, Chris Young is in right field every day and Beltran is a very expensive bench piece.