Delmon Young May Be Done Slumping If...
Those comparisons to great hitters of recent yore have long since died down. Suddenly, Delmon Young was just another talented, but struggling outfielder who had his current employers wondering if he would ever develop into something special.
It's still much too early to ascertain whether Young, the first pick in the 2003 amateur draft, will turn into an offensive presence like Albert Belle, a hitter to whom he's most often compared. But Young, after a slow start in 2009, is definitely showing signs of life.
In his past four games, Young is five-for-14, lifting his season average to .255 in 47 at-bats. He's amassed eight RBI in 13 games overall, which is a remarkable statistic considering the fact that he's batted in either the six- or seven-hole for most of the season.
And here's anothing thing: Young hasn't profited from the five-outfielder platoon system that manager Ron Gardenhire has employed in an attempt to maximize the Twins' offensive production. The system may benefit an aging veteran, but it does no favors to a 23-year-old who is attempting to establish his credentials as a major leaguer. A misstep in the field or a failure to produce a run only will only have him looking over his shoulder at the dugout, wondering what his manager's next step may be.
Young hasn't been the only Twins' outfielder to suffer.
The batting averages of Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gomez have plummeted with each passing game. Jason Kubel is thriving only because he's been able to hone his stroke as the team's regular designated hitter. Similarly, Denard Span is flourishing because he started out white-hot at the plate, earning him regular playing time, and he's been able to maintain his offensive consistency throughout the young season.
It seems clear that Young is making a compelling case for a starting role.
The fact that Young has managed to be a consistent producer, despite his limited role, is clear evidence that he has conquered questions about his attitude and immaturity that have dogged him during the past two seasons.
Young also offers a higher payoff than either Gomez or Cuddyer at this stage of the proceedings.
Gomez, following a solid-enough offensive campaign n 2008, is batting under .200 in 2009. He has been unable to pare down his strikeouts and increase his number of walks, possible signs that he's overmatched by major league pitching.
Cuddyer, 30, is hitting .214 with a single homer and six RBI in 18 games. He's struck out 15 times in 70 at-bats and his on-base percentage is a woeful .263. It's no wonder that there are whispers that his .284 BA, 24 HR, 109 RBI batting profile in 2006 was an aberration.
It's time that the Twins abandon their platoon experiment and install Young into the regular lineup to see if he can fulfill his considerable promise. After all, he's already a .291 career hitter and he may only get better with increased playing time.
Isn't that why they traded one of their top pitching prospects (Matt Garza) and their starting shortstop (Jason Bartlett) for Young in the first place?
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