In 2010 Delmon Young was a star. Not only did he finish one hit from a .300 season, he also bashed a career best 21 homers and socked 46 doubles. Young also knocked in 112 runs, the 8th highest total in baseball, more than Robinson Cano (109), Mark Teixeira (108), Ryan Howard (108), Evan Longoria (104), Ryan Braun (103), Matt Holliday (103) etc. So how is it that Young is currently going off the board as the 65th outfielder taken with an ADP of 233 overall according to MockDraftCentral?
The most obvious answer as to why Young is being drafted after guys like Lorenzo Cain, Seth Smith and Lucas Duda is that Young failed to follow up his breakout 2010 effort last season. Young slumped to a career worst .268, hit only 12 homers, scored just 54 runs and nearly saw his RBI total cut in half as he produced just 64. As I talk/write about all the time, people have really short attention spans at times. However, one would hope that if a formerly impressive performer struggled but turns things on toward the end of the year, that people would remember that. Apparently that is not the case with Young. After joining the Tigers Young, who had four homers and 32 RBI in 84 games with the Twins, went on to blast eight homers with 32 RBI in 40 games with the Tigers. Delmon isn’t going to hit 32 homers with 128 RBI this season, but that hot finish should have spurred some interest in Young, but alas, it really hasn’t.
One of the biggest issues with Young has always been expectations. I say that because Young has never become the superstar that people expected he would be when he was taken first overall in the 2003 draft. Go back and look at prospect reports and you will see that Young was ranked as the number one prospect in baseball for multiple seasons. He’s only had one effort in five full seasons that is worthy of that designation though, an as a result I would bet you that people are burying Young as a “failure” instead of realizing that he is a pretty solid performer – once expectations are thrown out the window.
What Young isn’t is a power hitter. He never will be. It’s possible he might hit 25 homers one day, but 30 homers is likely a pipe dream, hardly a surprise given that he has averaged 14 homers a season the last five years. The reason for the lack of long ball power is that Young has never learned how to lift the ball. The major league average fly ball rate is about 37 percent. For his career Young’s fly ball rate is 33.6 percent. If he isn’t hitting a lot of fly balls then he’s going to need a big HR/F ratio to give him homers (like Ryan Howard). Unfortunately, Young is the owner of a 9.2 percent HR/F rate, right on the major league average. He’s never going to be a big time power bat.
Young also will never lead his team in thefts. He does have two seasons with double-digit thefts with a career-high of 14 back in 2008, but over the last three seasons he’s stolen a total of eight bases while being caught nine times. That’s just pathetic.
However, Young is a strong hitter in terms of his ability to produce hits. Young owns a career batting average of .288 and prior to last season he had never hit below .284 in a season. Why the slump last year then? Though he had an 18.3 percent line drive rate in 2011, one tenth above his career rate of 18.2 percent, his BABIP was a career worst .320 (some .026 points below his career average). A few more of those batted balls should fall for hits in 2012, and with those hits, his batting average will return.
As stated, Young has his limits. He’s never going to be a power hitter, and 2010 might go down as the best RBI campaign of his career. He’s also never learned how to take a pitch, his career BB/K mark is hideous at 0.24, so he will likely have plenty of dry spells throughout the year (being such a free swinger might limit him to being a .285 hitter versus a guy who could hit .315 if he just showed some patience). Regardless of the holes in his game, Young would appear to be a fantastic bargain at his current ADP level. If he’s your 5th outfielder in a mixed league your team will likely be in pretty good shape for the coming season.
By Ray Flowers