In 2005 at age 19, Delmon Young cracked Double-A for the first time. He was there for just 84 games, hitting to an insane .315/.354/.527 line with 20 homers and 25 stolen bases 370 plate appearances. And now as a 27 year old, he’s back. Plenty of things have changed since then. Young has gone from the top prospect in baseball to a player whose major league career hangs by a thread. His weight has ballooned from 190 pounds to 240–he certainly isn’t a stolen base threat anymore. His power has gone from potentially among the best in baseball to something that shows transient glimmers but never lasts for long. However, just as important as what has changed for Young is what has not.
Young’s plate discipline is well below-average, exacerbating the deterioration of his skills ever more. Young’s critical flaw, though, has always been his attitude. It all started in that 2005 season, when he drew a three-game suspension for making contact with an umpire and ripped the Rays for not calling him up at the end of the season. The next year was the year of the nefarious bat-throwing incident. The Rays traded him following his 2007 rookie season believing that his selfish mentality would be an anchor derailing their playoff hopes for the following year. And Young’s attitude issues have continued to follow him throughout the years, with his arrest and suspension for assault and saying an anti-Semitic slur just last season immediately coming to mind. Young has continued to act like he was better than everyone else even after seven full seasons in the major leagues have proven that he certainly is not. Now if Young wants to take advantage of the few skills he has left, he has to stop taking things for granted and finally get himself in line.
After signing a minor league with the Rays, Young specifically requested an assignment to Double-A Montgomery instead of Triple-A Durham for the nine days in which he hopes to get back into playing shape after not playing since August 8th and show the Rays enough to be added to their 40-man roster for September. Why Montgomery and not Durham? Is Young scared of how the Durham crowd will react to him after the bat-throwing incident? You have to hope that will be the least of his concerns. Young should be going to Double-A and not Triple-A because he has come to a realization that he’s the lowest of the low right now and has work to do before he gets back to the major leagues. For a long time, Delmon Young has needed to be humbled. Could this assignment to Montgomery finally be that?
Delmon Young is what he is at this point. He’s a 6’3″, 240 player with severe limitations. He’s defensive liability and the Rays will play him at designated hitter whenever possible. He still has some bat speed, but his major patience issues have sapped most of his power. He has just a .706 career OPS against right-handed pitching with just a .252/.283/.380 line in 999 plate appearances the last three years. At the same time, though, he continued to be solid against left-handed pitching, managing an .820 career OPS and a .302/.340/.455 line the last three seasons in 403 PA’s, and that is his ticket to remaining in the major leagues. Young can be a platoon designated hitter who mashed lefties, isn’t totally inept against right-handers, and can fake the outfield for short stretches. That is what the Rays signed him to be. Does Young himself realize what he has become?
Delmon Young is nothing special anymore. He is just another player who has his share of deficiencies and hopes that a team will appreciate his strengths enough to keep him around. As long as Young keeps himself together mentally, though, there is nothing wrong with that. Young is not the player he used to be. However, as long as that is true not only of his skills but also his attitude, he has the ability to make an impact for the Rays this September and keep his career going after that.