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The Case For Delmon Young

If early reports and Ron Gardenhire's comments are to be trusted, Delmon Young will be seeing a lot more of the Metrodome bench than the left field carpet. After only a year as the Twins starting left fielder, Gardy is ready to sit the young man down in favor of a Span-Gomez-Cuddyer outfield. Denard Span certainly deserves his starting spot in the Twins outfield. After his call-up to the bigs last season, Span was one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball and the perfect fit for the Twins lead off hitter. His ability to hit for average, draw walks, and steal bases should keep him leading off for the Twins in '09. He will flank Carlos Gomez in the field as Gomez will retain his center field position for his combination of defense, speed, and youthful enthusiasm. Many obscenities were screamed and tufts of hair pulled out watching Gomez hit during the '08 season. Gomez channeled his inner Vlad Guerrero and swung at everything. Unfortunately, Gomez doesn't have quite the same plate coverage Vlad has. He's only going to be 23 years old come opening day and with a full year of major league experience behind him, Gomez should be an improved player.

The third outfield position is up for debate with Michael Cuddyer the front runner to get the starting nod over Young. With Jason Kubel filling the designated hitter position, either Cuddyer or Young will be left out in the cold come opening day. Cuddyer has had a couple of productive years as the Twins right fielder in '06 and '07, but suffered through injuries last season, allowing Span to ascend to the starting lineup. If Cuddyer can recapture his '06 form, Gardenhire will be vindicated for choosing him over Young. It is a big "if" as Cuddyer played in less than half of the Twins games last season, and when he did play, his OBP, Batting Average, and Slugging were down from the previous two seasons. Young did not have the impact Twins fans were hoping for when they made the trade that sent Matt Garza in the opposite direction. Garza went on to pitch successfully for the AL Champion Rays. Young hit only ten homeruns and drove in sixty-nine runs while looking baffled defensively at times in the Metrodome. Young wasn't the game changing bat the Twins hoped for, but a closer look at his numbers suggest his season was not as poor as many think.

As a rookie, Delmon Young had more homeruns and RBI's than he did last season. His batting average and slugging percentage stayed practically the same in both seasons. Where Young did improve from his rookie season was with his plate discipline and on-base percentage. Young played ten fewer games last season than his rookie year but was able to garner ten more walks and strike out twenty less times. He also had more stolen bases and increased his OPS. A good on-base percentage is imperative to a teams success and Young's improvement over his two seasons is a positive sign for his future growth as a player. The power numbers should come with time, as Young is only going to be 23 on opening day, same as Gomez. Experts continue to call for fans to be patient with Joe Mauer, saying that his power will come with age and experience. How is Delmon Young any different than Mauer? Young only hit thirteen homeruns his rookie year, so it was misguided to expect him to come in to the Twins lineup and mash at a similar pace to Kubel or Justin Morneau. Patience needs to be given to Young the same way we are going to give it to Gomez this coming season.

Michael Cuddyer will be 30 years old on opening day, coming off an injury plagued season where he played in less than half of the Twins games, and posted numbers lower than his previous two seasons. Delmon Young will be 23, coming off only his second full season in the majors, and continues to improve his hitting approach. Delmon deserves more than one season to prove he was worth trading Matt Garza for. As long as he doesn't throw bats at people during spring training, Young needs to start in left field. The Twins still need a third baseman. Cuddyer was an infielder when he first made it into the bigs. Maybe there is a solution for them all to play.

Written by: Ross Fyfe
Twinsmix Contributor

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