The Future of Delmon Young
Wednesday May 23rd, 2012
Sam Evans: There is a reason Delmon Young was selected with the first pick in the 2003 Amateur draft. Young has always had the potential to be a perennial All-Star, but he has never been able to sustain success over the course of a couple of major league seasons. Now, at twenty-six years old, Delmon Young is barely hanging on to a starting major league job. What’s in store for this former top five prospect in all of baseball? Keep reading to find out.
When Delmon Young was drafted out of high school back in 2003, the Rays made a smart choice taking him #1 overall. Even though things didn’t go as planned, the Tampa Bay organization drafted the most talented player available. Young possessed a rare combination of all five tools. The younger brother of MLB slugger Dmitri Young, Delmon could hit for power and had a strong arm, which projected well for a future corner outfield position. After a couple of impressive seasons in the minors, one of which he was suspended fifty games for hitting an umpire with his bat, Young finally reached the majors with the Rays organization in 2006.
After a year in which Young posted a 107 wRC+ in thirty games, he had a bit of a let-down season in 2007. Despite finishing second to Dustin Pedroia in the A.L. Rookie of the Year Award voting, Young only had a 89 wRC+ and a 3.8 BB%. Not to mention, scouts continued to worry if Young’s defense in outfield would ever improve. During the 2007-2008 offseason, the Rays shipped Young to Minnesota for a package including Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza.
2008, Young’s first year in Minnesota, he showed some signs of improvement from 2007, but he was on the verge of being considered a bust around baseball. Even though Young had turned into a decent corner outfielder, he never really lived up to the hype surrounding him during his teenage years. From 2009-2011, Young hit .284/.316/.442, with only eight stolen bases and below-average defense in left field. In August of last year, the Twins shipped Young to Detroit for a couple of minor prospects.
In a limited amount of time with the Tigers in 2011, Young showed that maybe a fresh start (and a hitter-friendly ballpark) would be beneficial for his development. Young posted a 103 OPS+ in only forty games. Heading into 2012, after a recently receiving over $6 million in arbitration and tearing up the Grapefruit League, the Tigers were hoping Young could turn into a solid regular. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.
In thirty-four games in 2012, Young has been horrendous. He has yet to steal a base, he has already committed an error in only seventeen chances, and he has been below league-average at the plate. Young is hitting .246 with a 79 wRC+, he is striking out more than twenty percent of the time, and he’s reaching base less than thirty percent of his at-bats. If there was any other way Young could play himself out of a job, he has definitely found it.
At the start of May, word got out that Young was arrested for making anti-Semitic remarks after drinking too much early one morning. I am a big believer in second chances, but it’s not like this is the first time Young has gotten in to trouble for stuff he has said. Apparently, Young has sought out a rabbi to apologize. You never want to hear about a player’s issues off the field, so hopefully Young can get things figured out, and concentrate on baseball.
Looking ahead the rest of Young’s 2012 season and career in general, he needs to improve quickly to continue to receive consistent playing time at the major league level. At the end of the season, Young will hit free agency for the first time, and I don’t think he will be pleased with the contract a player of his caliber earns.
For the rest of 2012, ZiPS projects Young to hit .278/.316/.365 with twelve homers and an improved strikeout rate. I’m not so sure that Delmon Young can hit like that for the rest of the year, but it definitely is possible. After all, if Young could hit as ZiPS projects, he could probably earn another starting job with a team in 2013. However, the Tigers are contending this year, so if they can find an improvement over Young, I’m sure they will be content with Delmon Young on the bench.
It’s amazing that Delmon Young is still only twenty-six years old. For a twenty-six year old, he seems to have lost his youthful shine awfully quick. Part of that is due to his struggles on the diamond, but not to be ruled out is his off-field problems. If Young can stay concentrated on the game, and becoming a better baseball player, he has the potential to be an All-Star. However, Young is running out of time to prove himself. His defense in outfield and his speed are never going to turn into the tools we thought Young had, but he still has some offensive value. I have no idea if Delmon Young can still turn into a quality everyday player. He is one of the most inconsistent players in the game, and it’s never easy to project young MLB veterans. Nonetheless, I’m cheering for Young to get his life back on track, and you should be as well.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Sam Evans, Baseball Writer. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Sam on Twitter (@RJA206)***
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