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What in the World Happened to Delmon Young?

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For a number of years Delmon Young was the next baseball superstar when the Rays tabbed him first overall in the 2003 draft. Brother of Dmitri, Young had the lineage and tools to become just that. Comparisons to Albert Belle, Gary Sheffield, and even Manny Ramirez popped up. Naturally, Young waited to sign until late September, delaying his professional debut until 2004.

 

After debuting on Baseball America's top 100 prospect rankings at number three Young would join the Charleston Riverdogs as an 18 year old. In 513 at-bats Young would record a line of .322/.385/.538 with 25 homeruns, 53 walks, 120 strikeouts, and successfully convert on 78% of his stolen base attempts. Young looked worth every bit of the hype moving into 2005 and finally earning a promotion to AA Montgomery.

Despite tearing up A-ball Young's stock would remain static on the prospects list, behind Joe Mauer and Felix Hernandez (replacing teammate B.J. Upton, 2004's second place finisher.) Young would spend the majority of the season in Montgomery; hitting .336/.386/.582 with 20 homeruns, 25 walks, 66 strikeouts, and maintaining a 76% steal rate. Young would get a promotion to Durham for the remainder of the season.

Despite moving from a park known for supporting pitchers to a hitters' paradise Young's OPS would drop over 0.200 points. This of course did not stop the 19 year old from making bold statements in the media. Young would question the Rays intents on not giving him a September call-up, including whether the team was more motivated to win or simply to save money. Young would even say that after his "six years" he would bolt to a team willing to pay him.

Weeks later new ownership bought the team and smoothed the comments and incident over, leaving Young impressed by their treatment of him as an adult rather than a child. Unfortunately, Young did not escape controversy for too long; after a borderline strike three call went against him Young flipped his bat at the home plate umpire, hitting him square in the chest and landing Young a 50 games suspension. Despite the time missed Young would still show some signs as to why Baseball America ranked him as the league's top prospect and hit .316/.341/.474 with eight homeruns, 15 walks, 65 strikeouts, and a 85% success rate.

On August 29th, 2005 Young made his major league debut against the Chicago White Sox. Facing his first pitch, Freddy Garcia would plunk Young in the elbow pad, promptly leaving Young without an official at-bat. Young's next at-bat would last significantly longer, five pitches total, and he would strikeout swinging. With the Rays trailing 3-7 and a runner on Young would face Garcia for the third time and quickly hit a ball into the left field stands, cutting the deficit in half. Young would get one more at-bat and would single, then score.

Young would play in 29 more games and finish just shy of the rookie eligibility cutoff limit with a line of .317/.336/.476, three homeruns, 24 strikeouts, only one walk, two steals out of four attempts. With another third place ranking and the rookie of the year award on his mind Young would play in every game during the 2007 season. Hitting .288/.316/.408 and possessing a slightly better K/BB ratio over his initial showing, although 0.20 compared to 0.04 is not quite Bondisan. Once more Young found himself on the wrong side of the publicity game, calling out Joe Maddon for benching him over hustle and in the off-season Young would be dealt to the Minnesota Twins.

Promising a new attitude and a new beginning Young made the move to left field. The Twins would prospectively have two of the best corner outfield arms in the game at their disposal. While Young played in 10 less games this season, and walked nine more times, his slugging dropped a few points, however Young's OBP raised by 0.020, and perhaps more encouragingly, only 0.002 can be attributed to a batting average raise. Yet again Young's K/BB ratio improved, this time by 0.13 points, but Young still has not shown the base running ability that had many regarding him as a future 30/30 type.

The report on Young is that he is simply a slightly below average hitter with a strong arm, but still finds a way to be weak in the other areas of defense that matter; see range. TotalValue had Young at minus 0.8 runs overall, equal to Pablo Ozuna. Word now comes that Young might be on the move once more, leaving some to wonder: will Young live up to his potential?

To begin his skills assessment Young has improved his selection at the plate, however Delmon could not see Russia while standing on the Alaskan border. I am not sure if his pitch selection or recognition need work but Young saw his O-Swing% and Z-Swing% decrease, although not too drastically since he still hacks about 40% of the time. Young also recorded 55.2% groundballs and only 17.1% line drives. This is concerning for someone not possessing great speed. Despite the lower line drive percentage Delmon's BABIP rested comfortably over .340 again. I would not expect that to continue moving forward.

A ton of Delmon's value will rely on his ability to hit for power, and frankly that's no sure thing either. It might be possible that coaching in Tampa and Minnesota has tampered with Young's performances, but what's more likely: two separate philosophies lead to bad and worst results, or Young is simply underachieving on his once glorious skill set? Sometimes players need second, third, or even four plus chances to finally succeed, Young very well might be that type, fortunately he's still young and is still Delmon Young and that will be enough to keep him around baseball for the next half-decade plus, even if the production never matches the hype.

References

Baseball-Reference

 

Baseball America

 

FanGraphs

 

TotalValue