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MIA: Delmon Young

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If you see any semblance of power, please contact the appropriate authorities immediately.

It's been going on all year, but the worrisome buzz is getting significantly louder.  In a few days, the Twins will be one quarter of the way through their 2008 campaign, and one of the biggest off-season acquisitions is having a difficult time finding his stroke.

In 2005, Baseball America bestowed Delmon Young with the prestigious title of Minor League Player of the Year.  Previous winners include Dwight Gooden, Frank Thomas, Tim Salmon, Manny Ramirez, Derek Jeter, Andruw Jones, Paul Konerko, Eric Chavez, Josh Beckett and Joe Mauer; it's an incredible honor, one that's been associated with many of the best names in baseball.  He was just 19.

Fast forward three years and we're watching him in the major leagues.  He's a big guy, described as "raw" and "toosly", but there's a discrepency between that potential ceiling and what we're seeing on the field.  He looks the part, there's no denying that, but he's not walking the walk.  Not yet.

While he's never been one to take a great deal of walks, he wasn't expected to come in and post a remarkable on-base percentage.  But he was expected to make up for that in two ways:  by being a good hitter, and by accruing extra-base hits.  Instead we've been witness to one of the most aggressive hitters in the league who appears to have been zapped of his power.  Nine walks, three doubles and a triple are the only non-singles to show in 146 plate appearances.

Were we correct to assume Delmon Young would find his power stroke in Minneapolis?  Granted, he raked in 38 doubles with the Rays in '07, but he hasn't shown real power since double-A Montgomery in 2005.  He's only 22, but there's a three year gap growing between who he is today, and who he was as Minor League Player of the Year.

This argument on the lack of Young's power could be counted in home runs and slugging percentage, but those metrics aren't as concerning to me as his isolated power.  Keeping in mind that a rating of .200 is very good and the bottom rung of "productive" is around .150, there's a disturbing thrend:

Year Level Age PA ISO
2005 AA 19 375 .246
2005 AAA 19 234 .162
2006 AAA 20 370 .158
2006 MLB 20 131 .159
2007 MLB 21 682 .120
2008 MLB 22 146 .036

Young can be defended in a couple of different ways.  First, he's encountered better pitching with each promotion, which has an effect on most players.  Second, as I mentioned above he's only 22.  Most players who face major league pitching at age 22 will struggle.

Yet we've been told, repeatedly, that Delmon Young isn't "most players".  He's a special breed, we've been told, a top-flight prospect and a prime specimen that's easy to project into a perennial All Star.  But it certainly seems that something has been lost in translation.

Hopefully it's just a slow start.  Hopefully, he'll start making better contact (only 14% LD in '08), and his power stroke should ensue.  Right now, my (unsolicited, amateur and outsider's) opinion is for Delmon Young to get back to basics:  take a few strikes, don't be afraid to work deep counts in order to get your pitch.  Give yourself time to see what a pitcher has to offer, and hopefully you'll get a few more strikes to swing at in the process of being a bit more selective.  This doesn't look like a problem that you can just hack your way through.

That potential is still there.  It's time to find it.