Will Delmon Young Ever Realize His Potential?

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Will Delmon Young Ever Realize His Potential?
(Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)

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With the playoffs being covered nationally, players we’ve never thought of really open our eyes. We’ve seen so many guys emerge in the postseason, to become huge fantasy players in the following season like Francisco Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, or even Jayson Werth, just to name a few.

The reason I even mention all that is because after ending the season on such a high note, I thought Delmon Young would be that player this postseason. How fitting would it have been to see him come into his own on the biggest stage, against those mighty Bronx Bombers?

Of course my hopes were a bit unrealistic, as the Twins fell to the Yankees and Young had only one hit in the series. Still, despite his disappointment in the postseason, Young managed a respectable 2009 campaign:

395 At Bats
.284 Batting Average (112 Hits)
12 Home Runs
60 RBI
50 Runs
2 Stolen Bases
.308 On Base Percentage
.425 Slugging Percentage

We all know the expectations Young had since being drafted first overall in 2003 by the Tampa Bay Rays. From age 18 to 20, and despite being very young for the level of competition, Young pretty much obliterated minor league pitching. In 1,413 at-bats he had 59 HR, 273 RBI, 75 SB and a .317 AVG. 

Since then, Young has been a letdown at the major league level, in 1,741 AB he has only 38 HR, 232 RBI, 28 SB and a .290 AVG.

The average certainly hasn’t been a letdown, but where has all the power and speed gone? Young’s minor league numbers showed he has the potential to be a five-category fantasy asset, yet he’s barely shown glimpses of it in the big leagues. Thirteen home runs and 14 steals represent his career highs, with only two steals this year. That’s not exactly the 20-20 season many thought would be attainable.

Prior to this year’s all-star game, Young looked like nothing better than a fourth outfielder. In 192 at-bats he had only 3 HR, 25 RBI and batted .266. I know that in my keeper league he was drafted, how could a 24-year-old with that sort of minor league track record not be, and was quickly dumped to the free-agent pool.

The second half of the season was different, just as it was for the resurging Minnesota Twins who catapulted themselves into the playoffs. Young’s second half (.300 AVG, 9 HR, 35 RBI) was opportune considering Justin Morneau’s season ended in mid-September.

Young hit .309 in September and .455 in October, but is this hot-streak just a blip in the radar? Is this just a tease so that fantasy owners get excited and draft him as their sleeper again next season?

This season Young sported a rather high .344 BABIP, but for him it’s not all that unusual as he has a career .345 BABIP. We can’t attribute any bad luck to this year’s season, so his .284 average is maintainable.

The biggest flaw in Young’s game right now is his lack of power. When drafting an outfielder, you want someone who is a plus in a single category (power or speed) or someone who puts up respectable numbers across the board. The .284 AVG is decent, however the power numbers (and steals, for that matter) just aren’t.  Honestly, it just doesn’t look like he’ll ever become a slugger in the near future, either.

For one, his flyball rates are extremely substandard, especially for an outfielder who is expected to hit with some pop. This year’s fly-ball rate of 34.1 percent marked his career high (30.9 percent average) and when you look at the better home run hitters in the game, Young’s fly-ball rate isn’t even close. Just for comparison’s sake: Ian Kinsler had a 54.0 percent rate, Mark Reynolds 47.3 percent and Ryan Howard 40.6 percent.

Young capitalized on 11.4 percent of his flyballs this season, which was also a career high (8.7 percent career average), yet he still showed well-below power. The better home run hitters in the league convert on their flyballs around 20 percent of the time, so clearly Young is significantly worse.

Even his knack for doubles (38 two years ago) was below average, as he only had 16 on the year. His .142 ISO tied himself with Melky Cabrera, Franklin Gutierrez, and Miguel Tejada this season, so we can’t exactly say Young was in good company in that regard.

Young’s game will never progress as long as he’s striking out over 23 percent of the time. Especially when there’s been no maturity in his plate discipline (his BB/K decreased to 0.13, his lowest since his rookie season), Young will be nothing more than an extremely talented outfielder who frustrates both major league managers and fantasy owners.

There’s always going to be reasons to draft someone like Delmon Young, just don’t expect him to become a star many predicted he would be-at least not next season.

Assuming Young plays more than 108 games he got into this year, I’d expect some slightly better numbers:

.287 AVG, 15 HR, 83 RBI, 70 R, 9 SB

What are your thoughts on Young?  Will 2010 be the year or will it just be more of the same?

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