Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Delmon Young



Over the last three years, Twins fans have for the most part continued to be patient with Delmon Young, seemingly convinced he's on the verge of breaking out into the star many predicted he would become. As a former number one overall pick, it's not difficult to understand why most fans think Young has a lot of potential still. While he has fantastic raw power, he hasn't shown it on a consistent basis during a game since he was promoted to AAA in 2005.

While the fans continue to be patient with Delmon, they basically took the opposite approach with Carlos Gomez. The Twins often talked about how out of control and undisciplined Gomez was, and while that was certainly true, Delmon Young has hardly been the picture of patience over the same period.

Gardenhire's refusal to play Gomez more than sparingly last season undoubtedly made Gomez available this past off-season, and it led to the J.J. Hardy for Carlos Gomez swap. With Young getting significant playing time now, and Gomez playing almost every day in Milwaukee, I was curious to see if Delmon Young has shown any improvements over the first month.

It's worth noting, of course, that the Twins most likely could not have traded Delmon Young for Hardy, because the Brewers were looking for a young center fielder, and honestly as surprising as it may be to most casual fans, Gomez had a lot more value around the league than Delmon.

To this point in the season, Young is hitting .261/.329/.449, with 3 home runs. He has shown quite a bit of improvement with his K:BB ratio, though, as he's struck out 9 times but has also walked 8 times. Last year, for example, Young took just 12 walks while striking out 92 times, so basically a 1:1 ratio is certainly something Twins fans should be ecstatic about.

However, despite his improved plate discipline, he's still been below average for a major league left fielder offensively. There is plenty of reason to be optimistic about Young's rest of the season, though. After hitting .338 each of the last three seasons on balls in play (my beloved BABIP), he's down to .254 this year. That's an awful lot of bad luck, as I've explained with J.J. Hardy as well, and over the course of the season it should gradually climb back closer to the .338 mark. If Young can continue to post an improved K:BB ratio, it's almost a virtual certainty that his offensive numbers will be greatly improved compared to the last two seasons.

However, offense is only half of the equation, and as I've noted here several dozen times, Delmon Young may be the worst defensive outfielder in the history of baseball. Sometimes I wonder if Helen Keller could take better routes to the ball than Delmon does. However, Young has improved defensively this year as well. Now, it's important to remember that 20 games is an extremely small sample size for defensive metrics, and it's very likely by the end of the season Young will be equally as poor as he was last year. He's currently on pace to post a -4.4 UZR/150 out in Left Field, which is a drastic improvement from his -23 UZR last year.

Young has shown improvement in both his plate discipline and his defense through the first month, and while I still am very very skeptical about Young ever becoming even a solid starter, the improvements are a great sign for his future. If this isn't just one of his 'good' months, and he gets a little less unlucky, the Twins may actually make me eat my words when I said Young would never be a starting caliber player on a good team. We'll see if he can continue his improved play.