In some ways this will be a companion to a well-written piece by Cmathewson. Check out his original post for additional information and discussion.
Off the field, Delmon Young is finding his niche. He gives the press quotable material, he's made appearances in the community and he's doing all the right things as far as image is concerned. As of today, Young seems to have answered questions as to what sort of character he's bringing to Minnesota. As bizarre at it seems, right now the primary focus on Delmon Young has more to do with his on the field performance than off it.
It's difficult to tell whether the mainstream press is trying to drum up excitement for a young hitter with an indeterminate ceiling, or whether they actually believe what they say, but setting Delmon up with Hall of Fame comparables goes beyond the horse/cart cliche. Somewhere in there is a grain of truth, that being that Young is tremendously talented. Realistically there's a long way, and a lot of assumed evolution and development, to jump from tremendous talent to Frank Robinson.
We're aware of that stretch, but there still seems to be a disconnect between how we project Young to perform in 2008, and how the non-biased systems project him. Sure, we know that Young isn't going to perform like a Hall of Famer in '08, but are we still being too optimistic?
Year AB 2B HR BB SO Avg Obp Slg Age
Minors 1413 74 59 97 284 .318 .362 .518 18-20
2006 126 9 3 1 24 .317 .336 .476 20
2007 645 38 13 26 127 .288 .316 .408 21
ZiPS 589 34 13 26 118 .294 .324 .421 22
PECOTA* 615 35 17 29 105 .294 .329 .458 22
CHONE 576 34 15 27 114 .290 .326 .438 22
James 585 34 15 24 106 .301 .331 .446 22
Marcel 517 32 12 26 118 .298 .339 .433 22
Jesse 582 42 20 35 118 .294 .332 .473 22
CMath 640 42 22 40 112 .322 .357 .503 22
*=Plate Appearances in lieu of At Bats
Both Cmathewson and I have gone on the record and made a pair of "homer" projections for our new starting left fielder, and as you can see we're both shading toward better seasons than what's predicted by the more respected oracles. We're both expecting more power, while our primary difference comes in how many singles we're looking for.
Clearly systems like ZiPS and PECOTA are more accurate historically, while Cmathewson and I are including some combination of personal expectations, gut feeling and Young's talent resulting in beefier numbers. In the end however, we're both projecting numbers on a purely subjective basis, which makes us more susceptible to being wrong. It doesn't mean our predictions can't happen, but it does mean that it's less likely that we'll be spot on.
PECOTA's top ten comps are Tommy Davis, Vladimir Guerrero, Rocco Baldelli, Larry Parrish, Frank Thomas, Gus Bell, Ellis Valentine, Carlos Beltran, Dave Roberts and Harold Baines. Baseballreference.com has a list of "Similar Batters through Age 21", and three of the top four are Hall of Fame hitters: Tris Speaker, Baldelli (again), Roberto Clemente and Joe Kelley.
All this means is that Young is keeping good company; he's performing well for his age. It's also good to note that in addition to names like Thomas and Guerrero, there are names like Davis, Bell and Roberts on those lists.
Right now the future is wide open for Delmon Young. He has the potential to be a very good hitter, but there's a large gap that still has to be filled in between his performance and that potential. He's still young, especially for a player expected to hit third or fifth throughout the course of the season, and there will be many occasions where he'll leave us wondering what the hell just happened in that last plate appearance. He's just in his age-22 campaign, and while we'll be seeing flashes of the hitter he could become, it's far more likely there will be more disappointments than we're hoping for.