What To Do With Delmon

When the Minnesota Twins gave up Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to get Delmon Young and Brendan Harris, they believed they were adding one of the game’s elite young hitters. Young had been a top prospect since high school, impressing scouts with his tools and blowing through the minors with quality performances. He got to the majors at age 20 and held his own, posting a .343 wOBA in 131 plate appearances.

By pretty much any standard, Young had the pedigree of an all-star. The tools were there. The performance was there. His strike zone judgment needed some work, but it was the kind of problem that would limit him to being just a good player instead of a great one if he didn’t fix it. And, considering his age, he had plenty of time to fix it.

He has to fix a lot more than his pitch recognition now. His 2009 line stands at .231/.272/.265, and he’s fallen apart as a hitter. His K% had held steady at 19% for his first three years, but is up to 35% this year. His ISO has dropped from .115 to .034. He’s still not walking, of course, so he’s currently an aggressive hitter who strikes out a lot and doesn’t have any power. We can’t even suggest that his struggles are luck related, as his BABIP is .347. He has a .347 batting average on balls in play and is still posting a .242 wOBA. That’s remarkable.

The current version of Young combines Jeff Francouer’s pitch recognition, Adam Dunn‘s contact abilities, and Juan Pierre’s power. Just for good measure, he’s also playing the outfield like Jack Cust. Add it all up, and you have a guy who has been worth -1.3 wins in 125 plate appearances. Prorated over a full season, that’s -6.5 wins.

To put that in context, Young’s current performance is equally as far away from replacement level as Justin Upton’s current performance… just in the other direction. If Young was going to continue to perform at this level going forward, replacing him with a random Triple-A outfielder would yield about the same return as replacing that random Triple-A outfielder with an All-Star.

Delmon Young needs to go back to the minor leagues. He’s so far away from being a major league player at the moment that the Twins can’t justify putting him on the field while trying to fix him. The problem, however, is that Young is out of options, since he signed a major league contract coming out of High School. As bad as he is, Young’s not clearing waivers, so shipping him back to Triple-A is out of the question.

There don’t appear to be any easy answers here. Young isn’t just slumping – he’s broken. The Twins still want to win the AL Central, so they can’t punt left field while trying to get him on track. But, sitting on the bench for a manager he doesn’t particularly like isn’t going to help him improve either.

At this point, the Twins would probably be best served if Young went on the DL with Dontrelle Willis disease, and they used some kind of mental anguish issue to get him off the roster and let him “rehab” down in the minors. This current arrangement isn’t working for anyone.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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13 years ago

“That’s the problem; he’s not into talking about mechanics. He doesn’t like to talk about mechanics. So it’s a little bit of a struggle,”

Twins manager Ron Gardenire talking about Delmon Young.

At least with Gomez, its obvious he’s taking the coaches advice and trying to make improvements, even if its seemed to make him worse for the moment. There is no way a team that hopes to contend can continue to throw him out there every day. Gomez was a league average player last year and has been riding the bench for someone who played all of last season below replacement level and has been even worse this year. Put him on the bench until he decides he’s going to start listening to the coaches instead of his dad.

13 years ago

The mechanics theyre advocating for Delmon are nothing like his natural swing or what made him good in the minors. The problem is theyve already overhauled him and tried to make him something he’s not.

13 years ago
Reply to  alskor

Sounds like what they tried to do to David Ortiz, which Ortiz memorably described as, “They wanted me to hit like a bitch.”

13 years ago
Reply to  alskor

Ortiz has evidently taken that to heart.