Delmon Young (age 23) played 151 games at LF in 2008. For anyone who spent any time watching the Twins last year, Delmon’s “exploits” in the outfield were painful to watch. Both on the road and at home in the Metrodome, he misplayed balls, dropped balls, let balls bounce over his head, kicked balls in the corner, etc. The good news for Delmon and his fielding is that 2008 was the 1st year in the majors that he played LF. In 2006 and 2007 with the Tampa Bay Rays he played 163 games in RF and 30 games in CF. It is unlikely that he will ever win a gold glove for his defensive work, but his brief career numbers are slightly below league average and we must not forget that he is only 23 years old and literally oozes with talent. In terms of range factor he ranked 9/21 regulars at the position according to Bill James’ numbers.
The offensive side of things is a different story. In 2008 he posted .290/.336/.405 with an OPS+ of 102. He seemed to get more comfortable in the 2nd half of the season and his numbers improved to a line of .297/.345/.432 to go with his .286/.330/.386 1st half performance. He hit 10 home runs for the season, which is far less than what most expected from him last year, but his first home run didn’t come until June. Baseball Prospectus projects him to have a .284/.325/.420 line for the 2009 season, which I see as too low and would reflect a regression in BA and OBP and a slight improvement in SLG. Bill James projects him to have a 2009 line of .301/.342/.437 which I think at the end of the year will be much closer to his overall numbers. I am a huge fan of stats and projections, obviously, but anytime your calculations spit out a projection where an ultra-talented 23 year old player gets worse in his 3rd MLB season you have to wonder if there isn’t a bit of human prejudice or some other shenanigans mixed into the final numbers. I believe Delmon is poised for a huge year, now that he has had a season to adjust to the Twins organization, the Twin Cities, and the Minnesota Twins way. His VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) for 2008 was 14.4 so even if he repeats his 2008 numbers, he still has significant value to any organization and at 23 years old is already above average with a whole lot of potential yet to be realized.
He altered his stance this offseason and he is hitting the ball with more authority and drive than he did last season providing a very promising start to his spring. In his first 3 games he is hitting .857 with 7 total bases in 7 at bats. If any major league organization can get him to tap into his potential, it is certainly the Minnesota Twins.