Atlanta Braves Morning Chop – Aaron/EYjr/Stars&Strikes

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Mets LF

Eric Young

Jr. (22) hits a RBI single against the Atlanta Braves in the 9th inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Braves sign free agent Eric Young Jr., who could contend for LF job, leadoff spot in spring

CREG STEPHENSON / AL.COM

The Atlanta Braves have signed free agent outfielder Eric Young Jr. to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training, according to multiple reports.

The 29-year-old Young, an experienced leadoff hitter, is expected to compete for playing time in left field along with fellow imports Zoilo Almonte and Jonny Gomes. The switch-hitting Young spent last season with the New York Mets, posting a .229/.299/.311 batting line with 30 stolen bases in 100 games.

Young’s best tool is his speed. He led the National League with 46 steals in 2013, when he played in a career-high 148 games with the Mets and Colorado Rockies.

Young was also at the center of an infamous play in recent Braves history. It was he who accidentally stepped on the leg then-Atlanta pitcher Tim Hudson at first base in 2013, breaking Hudson’s ankle and knocking him out for the season.

Young’s signing capped a busy week for the Braves, who also signed relief pitchers Matt Capps, Jose Veras and Todd Coffey to minor-league deals. Atlanta also announced that reliever Shae Simmons will miss the 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right (pitching) elbow.

[ Ed. note – this writer’s headline optimism aside, there’s an issue with EY Jr…. he can’t hit. 

  • 2013 slash line:  .249/.310/.336
  • 2014 slash line:  .229/.299/.311

He does has two tools of value – speed and defense – stealing 30 bases in 100 games for the Mets last year, 46 in 2013.  But aside from one glorious year at Coors Field (.316/.377), he hasn’t been nearly enough of an OBP threat to consider for a consistent lead-off role.

So the additions of Eury Perez and EY Jr. are most probably intended to add late-game speed and defense … and to add some help if others (Almonte, Gomes, Upton) falter. ]