Jim Thome‘s 600th career home run upstaged all other baseball news last night, but Thome wasn’t the only compelling story in Twins Territory.
Delmon Young is a Twin no more. After Detroit placed a waiver claim on the 25 year old outfielder, the Twins dealt him Monday afternoon for prospect Cole Nelson and a player to be named later. The Twins were already in Detroit to play the Tigers, so Young had plenty of time to walk over to the home dugout, put on a brand new uniform, and start Monday’s game in right field.
He wasted no time showing his former team what he thought of the move. In the bottom of the first, Young raked a Francisco Liriano slider to left field for a home run. Ironically, the Twins had been waiting for Young to display a little more power, as this was just his fifth homer of the year. In the fifth inning, Young made a nice running catch to rob Trevor Plouffe of a possible double. Before the trade, the only thing more frustrating than Young’s lack of power was his subpar fielding.
After popping out to second in the third, Young added a solid single in the sixth before taking a wayward Alex Burnett pitch on the shoulder in the seventh. In the ninth, Young struck out against Joe Nathan, one out before Nathan closed out a 9-6 Twins win.
It was a fresh start for Young, who has spent four seasons causing Twins fans to wonder whether he would ever reach his vast potential. Since the Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected him #1 overall in the 2003 draft, scouts have raved about his raw power and ability to slap line drives. But his record with the Twins was mixed at best. Young put up a .287/.324/.429 line with 106 doubles and 47 homers in 1,845 at bats. Most alarming was his near complete lack of plate discipline: Young walked only 93 times in his three plus seasons in Minnesota, and he never earned more than 35 bases in balls in any season.
This move closes the book on Bill Smith’s first trade as GM of the Twins, and theh results are not good. On November 28, 2007, Smith and the Twins sent Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, and Eduardo Morlan to Tampa for Young, SS JBrendan Harris, and outfield prospect Jason Pridie. Bartlett and Garza went on to become key components of the Rays’ 2008 World Series run. The Twins’ acquisitions were not so fortunate. Pridie racked up a grand total of four at bats in the Major Leagues for the Twins. Harris spent three years failing to hit for the Twins and earning more attention for expressing his extremist political views and being attacked by rodents than he did for his baseball performance. And Young spent his entire Twins tenure appearing on the verge of a breakout, but never quite making it.
In return for Young, the Twins received Nelson, a 6’7″ lefthanded minor league starting pitcher. Nelson is just 21 years old, and he seems to fit the mold of the type of prospect the Twins brass loves. He pitched in college at Auburn before being drafted in the 10th round last year, so his journey through the minors shouldn’t take too long; in fact, the lefty is expected to join the Twins’ high A class affiliate in Fort Myers for the rest of the season. Reports on his pitching style vary (as is often the case for low-level minor leaguers). Some sources have him pitching in the low 90s, while others say he can reach 96 mph.
The trade also involves a Player to be Named Later. Little has been said yet on who that player might be. My theory (based entirely on speculation and no actual evidence – so don’t read too much into it) is that the Twins and Tigers might already have identified a player on the Tigers’ Major League roster, perhaps a relief pitcher. Since the Tigers are a contending team, they might want to hold onto this player for the rest of the season and let the Twins have him after the year.