AFL Road Trip: Young Switches Up

PHOENIX — Like most players in the Arizona Fall League, Rockies prospect Eric Young Jr. needs no one to remind him that a lot of scouts and front-office executives are watching.

To Young, it’s up to him to make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid, especially now that he has moved from the middle infield at Double-A Tulsa to center field for the Phoenix Desert Dogs.

He’s also hit leadoff, second as well as eighth and ninth and, at the plate, he’s gotten red hot. He extended his hitting streak to 13 games on Tuesday, when he was 4-for-4—including an inside-the-park grand slam.

“It doesn’t matter to me (where he bats),” Young said before Tuesday’s game. “I’m getting my work in. And I’m making sure that I have fun. You can’t get caught up with who’s up in the stands.”

The Rockies wanted Young to try center field in the AFL, and it’s no surprise that Colorado wishes to test him there considering their glut of middle infielders in the minors such as Chris Nelson, Everth Cabrera and Jonathan Herrera, among others.

Young played his 13th game in the outfield on Tuesday and has shown an encouraging ability to read the ball off the bat. He got a taste of the outfield in Tulsa for four games as Dexter Fowler played for Team USA in the Beijing Games.

His biggest worry is running into the wall, which usually wins most battles against inexperienced outfielders that try to go on kamikaze missions.

“I’m not about to put my name on that list,” Young said. “Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of guys help me out.”

Offensively Young, who bats left, has been a delight for the Desert Dogs. Entering Tuesday, he was hitting .404/.475/.519 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs.

He missed a month this year after having surgery to remove the hamate bone in his left hand. The injury was a result of the knob of the bat jamming his palm, but there are no problems now.

“Now I can swing just as hard,” Young said.

His grand slam came in the fifth inning of the Desert Dogs’ blowout win against Surprise on Tuesday. Rangers center fielder Julio Borbon tried to make a diving catch in right-center, and Young—a plus-plus runner with 245 career steels in the minors since 2004—wheeled all the way around.

A solid relay throw reached Dodgers catcher Lucas May on the third-base side of the plate, but Young angled his body around the tag as he dove in. He was barely safe.