Delmon Young was born in Montgomery, Alabama, on September 14, 1985. He was drafted as the top pick of the 2003 draft, by the Tampa Bay (then) Devil Rays, and was traded to the Twins, along with Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie for Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett and Edwardo Morlan in the off season of 2007. This was the first big trade that the new Twins General Manager, Bill Smith, executed, within a month of taking office.
There has been a lot of controversy about Delmon Young in the minds of Twins' fans and even personnel. Last off-season Ron Gardenhire, in an agricultural trade show in Fargo mentioned that Young does not belong to his starting outfield, a statement that was forced by Bill Smith to rescind. Many local Twins Cities columnists were asking for Young to be traded this off-season. Why? There have been expectations that Delmon Young will be a power right hand bat for the Twins, and several people feel that he will never meet and that despite being the first overall player drafted, Delmon Young is a "bust". To support that opinion they use three arguments: Delmon is a sub par hitter, Delmon has no power and Delmon is a horrible defender.
Let's examine each of these arguments:
Delmon is a sub-par hitter
The following chart is a monthly breakdown of Delmon's OPS from 2007 (his first full season on) until the current month (May 2009). To create a point, I adjusted a chart with the average monthly temperatures of Montgomery, AL for these months:
As you can see, Delmon is a seasonal hitter. When it's hot in his birthplace, he is hot and when it cools off in Montgomery, he cools off. However, last season his peak increased and broadened compared to 2007 and this season, in the cold month of May his has achieved his highest monthly career OPS. This indicates that Delmon is making progress with the bat. His OPS+ in 2007 was 91, in 2008 was 102. Based on these trends, if I were to project an OPS for Delmon for 2009, it would be closer to .780, which would translate to and OPS+ of about 115. This would make it the 4th highest OPS in the team, behind Mauer, Morneau and Kubel.
Delmon does not hit for power
The following chart, is similar to the OPS chart but it is Delmon's monthly SLG from 2007 on:
As you can tell, similar to the OPS, Delmon's peak SLG increased in 2008 relative to 2007 and had 3 full months of .450+ slugging, higher than any 2007 month. His high for monthly SLG in 2008 was .476. This indicates that Delmon Young is developing power as projected. If I were to project a year end SLG for Young, it would be in the .425 area.
Delmon is a horrible defender
Delmon is a natural right fielder who has been playing Left Field for the Twins, since Right Field is given to Michael Cuddyer. He has been very bad at left field, but how is Delmon as a right fielder, his natural position.
To answer this question, here is the FanGraphs fielding data table for Delmon Young:
If we focus on the right hand side of the table, there are columns measuring the runs he contributed about replacement with his Arm, Range (RngR), Fielding Accuracy (ErrR), and then used to calculate the ultimate zone rating (UZR) and UZR/150 games. Of, course as a left-fielder, Young has been below replacement level. But as a right fielder in 2007 (Darker row) he contributed positively both with his arm and accuracy, whereas his range was below average. It resulted to a positive UZR. This is good. But how good?
Let's compare him to the Twins' reigning Right Fielder, Mike Cuddyer. This is his FanGraphs data table with with RF defense data:
As you can see, unlike Young, Cuddyer has been below replacement level consistently in right field through out his career. Not only his range is much less than Young's (and in 2007 using the plus minus system Cuddyer was ranked as the second worse right-fielder in the majors), but as seen in the 2008 and 2009 numbers, his once touted arm, has also been contributing negatively recently. Not only Cuddyer's bat is declining, but his arm is declining. This is another sign that Mike Cuddyer is past his prime. And the numbers indicate, that a Cuddyer without a strong arm in the RF is as bad as Delmon Young in LF.
A comparison of the 2 most recent seasons at right field by both players (darker rows in both tables) is very telling...
In conclusion, the three arguments Young's detractors are using (Delmon is a sub par hitter, Delmon has no power and Delmon is a horrible defender) are myths. And not only Gardenhire is doing a dis-service to both him and Gomez by having them as his least used outfielder, but Gardenhire's Young LF/Span CF/Cuddyer RF favorite configuration features the worse possible combination.
It is about time that the ideal outfield for the Twins is used:
Denard Span, LF
Carlos Gomez CF
Delmon Young RF