Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Position Analysis: Left Field

Likely Starter: Delmon Young
2007 Stats: .288/.316/.408, 13 HR, 93 RBI

Young will need to keep his historically hot temper in check in Minnesota.

Potential Backups: Craig Monroe, Jason Pridie, Jason Kubel

The Twins entered the offseason with numerous holes to fill, most notably third base, center field and designated hitter. Trading for Delmon Young indirectly filled one of those holes by allowing Jason Kubel to slide from left field to DH. The move should improve the team's defense in left field, and also provides them with a beefy 22-year-old with a ton of potential who could become a cornerstone in this lineup.

After being selected by Tampa Bay with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft, Young flew through the organization's minor-league system and was playing in the major leagues by September 2006. He has hit for big averages nearly everywhere he's gone, and last year finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting while batting .288 and appearing in all 162 of the Rays' games.

Yet, while his upside is huge, many questions surround Young. His attitude was a major problem during his time in the Rays' system; he frequently had spats with management and during the 2006 season was suspended for 50 games after throwing a bat at an umpire. Since arriving in Minnesota, Young has been saying all the right things and it appears that he has matured, but these issues will remain in the minds of fans.

Of greater concern is the fact that Young simply was not very good last year. He hit .317/.336/.476 during a September call-up in 2006, but took a step back in '07 by posting an underwhelming .724 while striking out nearly five times for every walk. I wrote recently about Young's mysterious lack of power over the past couple seasons, and his plate discipline has been almost uniformly bad throughout his professional career. These are areas where Young needs to improve if he is to become the star hitter that many believe he can be, and he needs to start showing that improvement soon. Fortunately, he's young and talented enough that it's not real difficult to see him making the adjustments to become a legitimate threat. I think he'll start making those strides this season.

Behind Young on the depth chart is Craig Monroe, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Cubs. I've expounded upon the fact that Monroe is overpaid and really not that great of a hitter, but he should serve as a decent fourth outfielder and he's almost certain to improve on his brutal .219/.268/.370 line from last season. Young doesn't have a big platoon split, and he proved last year that he can play everyday as long as he's healthy, so I don't think there will be much need for Monroe to chip in in left field. Kubel provides an additional backup option in left, as does Jason Pridie if he's on the roster.

Predicted 2008 Hitting Line for Young: .295/.340/.480, 20 HR, 110 RBI

4 comments:

biggity2bit said...

A couple of comments:

1. I think the media has Delmon's past temper issues more in mind than most fans. We're just excited about the prospect of another 20-30 homer guy who's young.

2. As for Delmon's plate discipline, Torii was no master of the plate either. He's 22, playing with the best players (and hitters) he's ever played with professionally, and he's finally in a stable and successful organization with history, tradition, and a track record of supporting and developing players. Reading between the lines of some of his comments this spring, having Oliva, Carew, Killebrew, and Molitor around meant something to Delmon and helped motivate him to improve. Long story longer (to quote PA), I think we owe him some time to settle down here and develop before we question his offensive production (or lack thereof). Remember, he's expected to be the fourth most productive hitter here.

Nick N. said...

As for Delmon's plate discipline, Torii was no master of the plate either.

Yes, but I'll be fairly disappointed if he doesn't end up being a superior hitter to Hunter. Of course, Alfonso Soriano and Vladimir Guerrero aren't exactly known for their ability to take walks...

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