Today, for some reason, is #DelmonYoungDay on Twitter and in the Twins blogosphere. Since I purport to be a member of said blogosphere,* I figured perhaps it's finally time to participate in one of these events. So if you've been reading a lot about Delmon Young today, well, hopefully we can get through this without boring you too badly. I'll try to keep it spicy.

* I say "purport" because we haven't gotten any real confirmation from the leader of the Twins blogosphere that we've been recognized as a real blog. I don't even know who the leader is, which just goes to show you where this blog stands. So until something on that front changes, we'll continue to publish this rabble-rousing rag with the rebelliousness that can only come from being unsanctioned. You're welcome.

So, anyway, we're all familiar with the story of Delmon Young. Second son of a strict military man, younger brother of Major League slugger Dmitri Young, #1 overall draft pick, prodigious power compared to Frank Robinson.

We also know that when he was drafted by the Tampa Bay (then-Devil) Rays, he didn't think much of their organization; he said he'd "do my six and bolt," referring to the six years of major league service time you need before you become a free agent. That was just one of several character-related incidents that caused the Rays to sour on Delmon, another being the time he threw a bat after a called third strike (at AAA) and hit the umpire.

Isn't it sort of funny that the Rays changed their fortunes -- which Delmon had correctly derided -- by, in large part, unloading Young and receiving a #2 starting pitcher and one of the league's top shortstops in return? When the Twins gave up that much, they knew he'd need to hit like an All Star for the trade to be even close to even.

And ... that hasn't happened.

In 2007, his final year with the (Devil) Rays, he produced 0.1 WAR and nearly won the Rookie of the Year award. He then came to the Twins and promptly put up -0.7 and -1.1 WAR, establishing himself as one of the worst regular players in the league. 2009 was especially tough for him, as his on-the-field woes were compounded by a mortally sick mother that he couldn't stop worrying about. Indeed, her death was undoubtedly the nadir of the worst year in Delmon's life. Oh, and he wasn't playing often either, having lost a lot of playing time to Carlos Gomez. Things were not looking good for Delmon Young, as his body was getting more Dmitri-like, he lumbered around in the outfield like he'd just shit in his pants, he couldn't tell whether the ball was down the middle or four feet outside, his bat was slowing, and he was quickly making a name for himself as a fourth outfielder who couldn't hit or field.

But then, in the 2009-2010 offseason, things finally started breaking Delmon's way.* The Twins traded Gomez for an infielder, committing to Young as their starting LF who would play nearly every day. He lost 30 pounds, greatly reducing the Dmitrification of his body; this has paid early dividends, as his speed on the bases is basically incomparable to 2009, his defense appears to have improved tremendously (to the naked eye, at least -- his UZR in 2010 is positive, but it's too early to trust any defensive numbers), his K/BB ratio has improved from 92/12 in 2009 to 10/8 so far in 2010, and things seem to be turning around offensively for him.

* I mean aside from the breaks he got earlier in life, like "having the talent to see and hit a 90 MPH pitch," and "having a father who had already raised a son to the majors and was doing everything in his power to do it again," etc. He'd had a bad few years.

So here we are, with Delmon. Plenty of people have given up on him; others remain hopeful that he can become a good player. Already, he's shaping up as a barometer of a fan's disposition: do you believe he can recapture his faded potential, or do you think it's too late and that the Twins should move on at the first opportunity?

Regardless of a fan's dreams, Delmon will probably need to establish himself soon; Span won't be in CF forever, and the Twins happen to have a slew of talented and promising young outfielders getting ready to burst upward through the farm system. If Delmon can't establish himself as a (very) productive player this year, it may well be time to start the countdown to when he leaves.

Still, I can't shake the terrible feeling that as soon as Delmon goes to another team, he'll figure out when and how to turn on a pitch and will suddenly morph into Manny Ramirez. Maybe that's why the Twins were more ready to trade Gomez than Young -- is it that they believe in him, or is it that they're afraid?

It's worth pointing out that he's still only 24 years old. His first few years have shown that he'll probably never be a Hall of Fame player, like you'd hope from a guy who debuted in the majors at age 20. But it's too early to stick a fork in him.

While my excitement for Delmon has certainly waned -- I had to quickly retire the "DelBat" nickname once he arrived and it turned out he couldn't hit -- I'm one of those fans that holds onto that last little bit of hope that Delmon can become a good player and will start putting a charge into the ball on a regular basis, solidifying the Twins' lineup.

Where do you stand on Delmon?



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Published

12 May 2010

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