Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Delmon Young: Hit the Ball or Hit the Road
Delmon Young is at a crossroads.
It may seem strange to read that line about Young, as usually you read about aging veterans reaching a crossroads, not 24-year olds who seemingly have their entire career in front of them.
Young is at a crossroads, because at just 24-years old he is on his last legs with his second big league organization. A far cry from the future Young had no doubt envisioned when he was taken first-overall in the 2003 draft by Tampa Bay.
Since that day Young has been called many things.
He’s been called “talented,” “amazing,” “a natural,” and was once even hailed as the “next big thing.”
He’s also been called “lazy,” “arrogant,” “entitled,” and “selfish.”
Which words truly define Delmon Young are not for us to decide, Young will decide that for himself in the next twelve months.
Because his trade value is so low, Young will undoubtedly survive the offseason as a member of the Twins outfield and should be given a bulk of the at-bats in left field both in Spring Training and during the 2010 season.
In that time Young’s performance on and off the field will determine where he goes next.
He has put up serviceable, yet unspectacular, numbers in his three seasons in the show.
He’s hit for averages of .288, .290, and .284. Good numbers, yes, but not what one expects from a former number one pick.
Unfortunately, those solid averages have been accompanied by literally no power. In those same three seasons he’s combined for 35 home runs and 222 RBI.
Those numbers would be acceptable if he were a light-hitting centerfielder or middle infielder, but he’s playing a corner position in the majors and last time I checked, that was a power position.
Power isn’t the only thing missing from Young’s game; however, as his once-vaunted speed has all but disappeared.
In three minor league seasons Young swiped 75 bases. Throughout his entire Major League career, he’s accumulated just 28 stolen bases. In 2009, Young managed merely two thefts in a meager seven tries.
In addition to the uninspiring power numbers and complete lack of speed, he’s also displayed little defensive prowess in his time in the show. He’s looked lost and overwhelmed far too often and, as a result, hasn’t made of use of his oft-praised cannon to throw runners out.
Now here’s the interesting part—despite what the previous 350 words may indicate—I still think there’s hope for Delmon Young.
He has been through a lot in his young career and is still maturing both on and off the field.
He was given free-reign in the Tampa Bay organization to act as he pleased until the infamous bat throwing incident that cost him 50 games in the minors and pushed back his impending call up in 2006.
After that moment he was stuck in a box by the media and no matter how good of a citizen he’s been on or off the field, he’s been unable to escape that box.
After an impressive rookie campaign in 2007, he was swapped to the Twins because the Rays wanted to clean house and didn’t feel they could win with him on board.
He struggled in 2008 to get off to a good start and the struggles lasted much of the season. In 2009, it was more of the same, only he had more off the field issues to deal with when his mother succumbed to cancer early in the season.
Young eventually caught fire down the stretch and played a big part in helping the Twins win the American League Central.
And that leads us to where we are now.
We’ve all seen what Young can do.
Twins fans have been privy to a patient hitter who can attack the ball with a powerful line drive stroke that scouts once compared to the likes of Albert Belle.
Twins fans have also watched as a young, inexperienced hitter flailed at first pitch after first pitch and made mistake after mistake in the outfield.
In all likelihood 2010 will be Young’s last chance to prove he belongs—not only with the Twins—but as an everyday outfielder in the Major Leagues.
As a Twins fan, and a fan of Young, I hope he makes the most of it.
All personal feelings aside, baseball is a business and Delmon Young needs to hit the ball or hit the road.