Closing Time: Eric Young, Angel in the outfield

Eric Young has made a splash over the last couple of weeks (AP)

The Angels were a below-.500 club when Mike Trout got hurt. They’re 9-7 since. Obviously any short sample is loaded with noise and variance, but let’s at least credit the Halos for stepping up in Trout’s absence.

Start with Eric Young Jr., a ballplayer back from the dead.

We’ve had occasional fantasy fun with Young in the past. His 46 steals led the majors in 2013. He had a .316/.377/.448 slash at Colorado in 2012, over 174 at-bats. His career fizzled in recent years, bouncing from the Mets to the Braves to the Yankees. Have legs, will travel.

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When the Angels signed the 32-year-old journeyman in January, no one thought much of it. Young opened the the year with Triple-A Salt Lake, where he was tremendous; .947 OPS, five homers, 15 steals in 44 games. The Trout injury forced the Angels to promote, and play, Young.

And man, what a run it’s been. Young is on a .333/.429/.556 bender over that stretch, with three homers and six steals. He had the walk-off hit in Tuesday’s win over the Yankees, and he reached base three times (and stole a base) in Wednesday’s victory.

Way cool, Junior.

If you rank all the fantasy outfielders over this period, Young checks in at No. 3 — trailing just Aaron Judge and George Springer (go ahead, sock it to me). And while no one expects Young to keep this company long, we might as well enjoy the ride while he’s still in the lineup. Something’s working. Category juice is category juice. Go look at the home-run leaderboard again; if there’s ever been a season to accept crazy results from unexpected sources, it’s this year.

Trout hopes he can return before the All-Star break; maybe he’s about three weeks away. In the meantime, Young is welcome to sit in on any of my rosters. He’s unowned in 94 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Young isn’t the only Angel in the outfield. Cameron Maybin is still curiously available (43 percent owned) despite 20 steals and a nifty .377 OBP. Kole Calhoun stepped up after the Trout injury; the lefty is on a .362 binge with five homers over the last two weeks.

• Moving down the coast a bit, the Padres are having fun with Jose Pirela. The 27-year-old wasn’t seen as a prospect entering 2017, but he tore it up in 48 games at Triple-A (.331/.387/.634, 13 homers, eight steals), and he’s been sharp in nine San Diego games. He’s at .441/.513/.735 with a couple of homers since the recall, with seven starts in the leadoff position. He’s also walked five times.


Pirela has many theoretical ways into the Padres lineup; he’s already played first base, second base and left field during his brief San Diego stay. Perhaps he’s up for good.

I understand anyone who doubts the story; obviously Pirela can’t be this good, and his PCL stats come with the requisite grain of salt. But unless everyone magically heals up in San Diego and Pirela stops hitting, I think he’s carved out some leash here. Pirela carries 2B and OF eligibility, and is free to grab in 88 percent of Yahoo leagues.

• The Royals don’t appear to be going anywhere, and we’ve been comfortable streaming against them most of the season. With that in mind, you might be missing out on Mike Moustakas’s career year.

Moustakas is a rare power hitter who doesn’t strike out much. He’s whiffing in just 16.7 percent of his at-bats, and that rate is down to about 11 percent over the last 30 days. Moose has a .319 average and .670 slugging perrcentage over that run, with nine homers and 22 RBIs. He’s the No. 4 third baseman in this period.

Here’s his latest homer, a splashdown special against Johnny Cueto. Moose, meet McCovey.

Keep in mind Moustakas was always pegged as a future star — he went second overall in the 2007 draft. The 2015 breakout season was a nifty profit, and you can write off 2016 on account of injury (torn ACL). It’s all happening for Moose in his age-28 season.

• For nine years, Brandon Funston has been a tremendous colleague and an even better friend. With that in mind, Wednesday was a sad day around here.


Every nice thing you ever hear about Funston is unequivocally true (look at his Twitter responses, they speak for themselves). I don’t know where Brandon’s next gig will be, but I’m sure I’ll be reading. I can never fully repay him for all he’s done for me since our paths crossed. Keep your head up, Hall of Famer.

If Funston were sitting next to me right now, he’d probably tell me to cut it out and not be so serious. With that in mind, here’s some Pearl Jam. We’ll share a drink (or a few) soon, amigo. Today’s CT handshake belongs to you.