Delmon Young walked 53 times in his first 578 minor league plate appearances. Thereafter, he walked 44 times in 974 plate appearances. Whenever a right fielder with a power stroke, good bat control, and a strong arm comes through the minors with a resistance to the free pass like Young, you can be sure that Vladimir Guerrero comparisons will follow. Sure enough, they did. Fortunately, for Young, he managed to live up to those expectations in 2010.
Unfortunately, for Young, those expectations needed to include a disclaimer, stating the comparison only became valid once Guerrero entered his mid-30s. The 35-year-old Guerrero hit .300/.345/.496 while walking more than 5% of the time and striking out 10% of the time. Young, then 24, hit .298/.333/.493 while walking less than 5% of the time and striking out slightly more than 14% of the time.
After three consecutive seasons with a .338 batting average on balls in play, Young’s success rate diminished (to .312), but his impact increased as his ISO (.195) finished above league average for the first time in his career. Not everything is flowery in the world of Young. Matt Klaassen found that Young was one of the most average-est players on the land before showing how inflated his RBI totals were relative to his overall production. Young topped the 2 WAR mark for the first time last season. Before 2010, Young’s career WAR total was below replacement level, and not just because UZR considers him a putrid defender.
It is difficult to believe that after four full big league seasons, Young delivering a league average season is something worth celebrating. It is even more difficult to accept that this is who Young is, but ZiPS projects a .290/.327/.451 line and 18 home runs for the 25-year-old while also tapping Carlos Lee as his top comparable. Like a younger Lee, Young has issues working a count – if only to find his pitch. Lee also experienced a decrease in BABIP in favor of an increase in power output.
Morphing into Lee is not as desirable as morphing into Guerrero, but it is better than morphing into a jobless former top prospect.