Friday, March 07, 2008

Can Delmon Deliver?

Between classes on Wednesday afternoon, I had the opportunity to catch the first hour or so of the Twins' ESPN-televised match-up against the Yankees. I made several small observations -- Kevin Slowey looked shaky, Carlos Gomez looked predictably raw, ESPN announcers were overly obsessed with the Yanks as usual -- but one thing really struck me when Delmon Young stepped into the box for his first at-bat of the game: the guy is huge. I've seen Young play a little bit before, but never really noticed how beefy he was; he's got big strong shoulders and bulky, muscular arms that seem capable of generating a ton of power. His listing at 6-foot-3, 200 lbs. on the Twins' official site seems conservative. Needless say, I wasn't too surprised when Young unloaded on a belt-high fastball from Yankee starter Ian Kennedy and sent it soaring over the center field wall.

It makes sense that Young has gained comparisons to Vladimir Guerrero and Alfonso Soriano -- both athletic free swingers who have developed into 40-homer threats in the big leagues. Certainly, Young was flashing that type of power potential in the low minors, when he amassed 45 home runs and slugged .562 over 215 games between Single-A and Double-A as a teenager.

Yet, ever since moving up to Triple-A midway through the 2005 season, Young's power has dissipated noticeably. After ripping 20 homers and slugging .582 through 84 games at Double-A to start that season, Young hit just six home runs in 228 at-bats as his slugging percentage dropped to .447 upon being promoted to Triple-A. He spent much of the next season at that same level, and his power actually waned further -- Young hit only eight home runs over 342 at-bats and while his slugging percentage rose to .474, this was clearly an auxiliary effect of a rise in batting average. His Isolated Slugging (slugging percentage minus batting average) actually dropped slightly from .162 during his first stint in Triple-A to .158.

Since reaching the majors, Young has shown that he can hit, with a .293 batting average, but his power has yet to manifest as evidenced by a disappointing .419 slugging percentage. Despite his size and pedigree, Young simply was not a power threat last season. His counting stats -- 38 doubles, 13 home runs, 93 RBI -- don't look too shabby, but they're a bit misleading considering that he was one of only two American Leaguers to play in all 162 of his team's games, and ranked second in the league in at-bats. Rate stats paint a more disconcerting picture: Young slugged just .408 and his Isolated Power (.120) was lower than Joe Mauer's (.133).

Young's drop-off in power over the past couple years has been a bit perplexing. He has maintained an ability to make contact and hit for average, but for whatever reason he hasn't been able to hit the ball out of the park much against higher levels of competition. My best guess is that this relates to the fact that Young is not waiting for good pitches to hit (it is well documented that he took more swings than any other player in baseball last year), in which case he might benefit from a more patient approach. It's hard to believe that his fundamental ability to hit for power has dropped off when I look at those big arms and ferocious swings.

Young's power has been on a downward slope for the past couple seasons. The Twins are hoping that his big blast on Wednesday afternoon is an early sign that he's ready to reverse that trend in Minnesota.

6 comments:

Travis said...

Watching that game on ESPN on Wednesday, it really looked as though Young was making a concerted effort to take some pitches. Hopefully, it's not a spring aberration. And like you said in an earlier post, don't let hime talk to Rod Carew about plate discipline!

travis said...

brain fart, I meant oliva

Kaiser said...

Sure, kill my buzz....
http://tuesdayswithtorii.blogspot.com/2008/03/preen-season-baseball.html

neckrolls said...

Every AB of his I've observed this spring, I've been counting the pitches he takes. in most cases, he's taken at least 3. It definitely seems to be working.

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