StrategyOctober 27, 2005


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Delmon Young: A Player Worth the Risk

By Denny Foster

Delmon Young is already considered a rare player. A player that has the capability to lead a team in almost every category, from power to assists. A player most anyone would classify as a five-tool talent. Young may not be known solely for his speed and stolen bases, but this quality is what may make him a top 20 fantasy outfielder as early as next year.

Currently, Young is still waiting for his first taste of the big leagues. Since he has yet to make an appearance at the major league level, Young was not available in most standard online fantasy leagues this season (unless your league includes minor league drafting). In the event he gets the call next year, Young may not be quite ready to help your team in dramatic fashion, but do not let that stop you from doing whatever you can to obtain him if you’re in a keeper league.

Giving him a roster spot for the season should pay large dividends down the road. With many scouts projecting future 30/30+ seasons, his future value is immense. If he is able to put up 30/30 numbers in the near future, his value will be right on par with that of consensus first-round players. Only 27 players swatted 30+ home runs in 2005, and an even fewer amount, 13, reached 30+ stolen bases. How many players provided their owners with a 30/30 season? Try one, Alfonso Soriano.

Both home runs and stolen bases are major factors in determining a player’s fantasy value, but by no means do the two categories make a player (see Mike Cameron). In addition to Young’s power and speed, he has shown the ability to hit for average and drive in runs. In Young’s two years of minor league ball, he has compiled an average of .317 in 1071 at bats. For those more impressed by slugging percentage and on-base percentage, his numbers check out accordingly (.372 and .531, respectively). Scouts rave about his knowledge of the strike zone and his amazing bat control, two of the things that help maintain offensive percentage stats (BA, OBP, SLG, OPS). When a player has the ability to hit for average and power, the RBIs and runs will come in bunches.

If Young’s minor league stats (from all levels) are taken down to a cumulative 500 at bats, mixing the three leagues in which he has played, it would look something like this:

87 R, 25 HR, 100 RBI, 25 SB .317 AVG

If those numbers do not seem impressive, let’s compare his production to the young minor stats Vladimir Guerrerro, Andruw Jones, and Corey Patterson posted at a similar age.

A BallAB/HRAB/RBIAB/SBAVGOBPSLGBB/K
Young (18)20.534.4624.43.322.388.5380.44
Guerrero (19)26.316.6835.08.333.381.5440.70
Jones (18)21.485.379.59.277.365.5120.60
Patterson (19)23.756.0114.4.320.358.5920.30

AA BallAB/HRAB/RBIAB/SBAVGOBPSLGBB/K
Young16.524.6513.2.336.386.5820.38
Guerrero21.955.3524.53.360.432.6121.20
Jones13.084.8414.83.339.420.6750.62
Patterson20.185.4116.44.261.334.4910.40

During their first two years of professional baseball, these players posted stats near those of Delmon Young while playing at the same level at nearly the same age. There are obvious similarities in all the players listed above. The differences between Guerrero, Jones, and Patterson are the developments they have made since their first two years.

Guerrero, a consensus top four pick in this year’s drafts, has obviously adjusted to the major leagues quite well. His ability to grow up in a low-pressure situation with the Expos may have helped his development. If the low-pressure situation is something that allows an ease of adjustment, Young couldn’t pick a better team to play for. The Devil Rays have no expectations, lowering the pressure on Young when he finally makes his debut.

Jones has been an effective player with rather consistent numbers year after year. Jones is not a bad player for comparison since he was built much like Young, strong but thin. Since his minor league days, Jones has gained a few vanity pounds which have greatly affected his ability to steal bases. If Young takes to the Barry Bonds/Andruw Jones diet, you can say good-bye to his ability to run.

A possible worst-case scenario would have Young’s career start like that of Corey Patterson. Patterson is said to have been a victim of the early call-up. In the major leagues, the young Cub has never really reached his potential. This could be attributed to a variety of things, but the main issue is his patience. As you can see by the BB/K ratios above, Patterson has had a problem with free swinging in the past and has carried the problem throughout his career in Chicago. The most disturbing comparison is the similarity between Patterson’s and Young’s BB/K ratios. If Young is to succeed at the next level, he must develop more patience while at the plate. Successful minor leaguers, such as Patterson, tend to have trouble at the next level when they continue to strike out at such a high rate, all while taking very few walks. You can see that Guerrero has always carried great patience at the plate (in terms of BB/K), though he tends to hit anything thrown in his direction.

Like Young, all these players exhibited great promise, power, and speed. We have a few years before we see whether Young will begin turning into a total power hitter (like Jones did), or continue to be a five-tool player in the footsteps of players like Abreu and Guerrero. If he continues to improve and develops more patience, Young should progress into an MVP candidate for years to come. His ability is irrefutable. He definitely has the talent to give the Devil Rays a huge boost in the future and should fit in nicely with the plethora of young talent the team possesses. While Tampa Bay can afford to wait for Young, you shouldn’t. Make sure you do whatever you can to obtain him for your keeper league, as his value could be skyrocketing as early as the 2006 season.

 
Denny Foster makes his home in Festus, Missouri. Nonetheless, you’ll find him posting in the Cafe’s Forums under the name of Cleveland Steamers.

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