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Is Delmon Young the Answer in Right Field?

Jan 23, 2013, 11:57 AM EDT

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Turns out Ruben Amaro wasn’t finished making moves after
all. After leading everybody to believe there would likely be
competitions/platoons at both corner outfield positions, the Phillies’ general
manager signed free agent Delmon Young to a one-year contract on Tuesday. He is
already penciled in to start in right field.

The addition came as a bit of a surprise, as Young never
really seemed to be on the club’s radar while option after option was scooped
off the market. From Josh Hamilton to Nick Swisher and everybody in between,
Young’s name seldom if ever was mentioned. Then Amaro indicated Domonic Brown,
John Mayberry, Laynce Nix, and Darin Ruf would battle it out for two spots.

Now it seems there is only one, as long as Young can produce
anyway. Amaro admitted there are no guarantees for the 27-year-old right hander,
who signed an incentive-laden deal worth a base salary of $750,000. That said, RAJ
did nothing to try to hide the fact that the organization is hopeful he can
start.

There is no question that Young brings tremendous upside to
the table. He was made the first overall pick of the 2003 draft by the Tampa
Bay Rays, the runner-up for American League Rookie of the Year in ’07. He was
traded to the Minnesota Twins, and had a season there in 2010 that garnered
some attention in Most Valuable Player voting. The Twins shipped him to the
Detroit Tigers, where he became the AL Championship Series MVP last season.

Young’s career lacks a consistent trajectory however, so
projecting success with the Phillies is tough. He’s been prone to slow starts, and
there are plenty of warning signs when it comes to character.

We know the things that Young does not do well though. He’s ranked
46th among qualifying active Major League players with a .284 average, yet he
draws so few walks, his lifetime on-base percentage is only a marginally-higher
.317. He also tends to ground into a lot of double plays. And then there’s his
defense – Young finished in the top five for outfielder errors a whopping four
times in the AL in six full seasons.

Which is not to suggest he has nothing to offer – nothing could
be further from the truth actually. Young offers a solid right-handed bat with
that much sought-after pop, and is capable of getting on white hot stretches
like he did in the 2012 ALCS and World Series. In the final eight games of the
postseason, Young hit .355 with five runs, three home runs, and seven RBI.

Jim Salisbury adds that Young has been playing out of
position in left field
for most of his career. It’s true that he has a higher
field percentage in right (.985) than everywhere else combined (.976).

This seems like the very definition of low risk, high
reward. If it doesn’t work out, or one of the other candidates is simply
outplaying him, the Phillies aren’t out an investment or even very much money.
On the other hand, if he gives them a .290 season with 20 home runs like he’s
capable of, Young could be a very valuable asset for the club this season.

As always, time will tell, but it’s better than doing
nothing.

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