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Where Does Delmon Young Fit?

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. 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.