Thearon W. Henderson
In which we attempt to find the best fit for a player who doesn't seem to fit anywhere.
There haven't been a lot of consensus No. 1 picks in the draft over the last couple of decades -- the kind of player that had to go first overall, lest the team miss out on a player who could be one of of the supreme talents of his generation. Ken Griffey, Jr. was one. Alex Rodriguez was another. Justin Upton was, too, and the Nationals got a pair with Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. There wasn't a will-they-or-won't-they question with the team holding the first pick in those drafts.
Oh, hey, Delmon. Didn't see you there. Yeah … Delmon Young kind of qualified, too. The Rays were loaded with young outfielders at the time (Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, and, heck, even Aubrey Huff was only 26), and the whispers had already started that B.J. Upton wasn't long for the infield.
But it didn't matter. Young was the consensus top pick, and the Rays would figure the logjam out when they needed to. Check out these quotes from the 2005 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, which featured Delmon on the cover:
An intimidating presence from the right side of the plate who elicits Albert Belle comparisons …
He's selective at the plate and has outstanding baseball instincts …
Young is a special hitter with more offensive upside than any of the organization's rising stars …
Those quotes came after Young's 2004 professional debut, in which he hit .322/.388/.538 in Low-A as an 18-year-old. He demolished Double-A as a 19-year-old, earning a promotion to Triple-A in 2005. After the season, Baseball Prospectus listed Orlando Cepeda, Sammy Sosa, Cesar Cedeno, and Hank Aaron as his comparable players. Other comparisons included Elijah Dukes and Jeff Francoeur, which is kind of like saying "The next Guns 'N' Roses album is going to be as good as either Appetite for Destruction or Chinese Democracy," but you get the idea.
On top of all this, Young made the majors at 20, which meant he was going to be a free agent when he was 26 or 27. His peak years. The bidding was going to be a complete frenzy. Teams climbing over each other with hatchets in the Winter Meetings, angling to be the franchise picking up a franchise cornerstone on a 10-year deal. Mid-20s players like that just don't show up on the free-agent market.
It's finally here, then. The offseason of reckoning. How's that frenzy going?
Don't expect the Braves to address their opening in left field with Delmon Young, tweets David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Get back, everyone! A frenzy! Of sorts.
This all has to do with the fact that after the pre-draft hype, and after a dynamic start to his pro career, Young was … kind of awful. According to Baseball Reference, Young has a career WAR of 0.6, which is about what Mike Trout leaves behind in a Kleenex when he blows his nose. Other players with over 3,000 plate appearances and less than a win for their respective careers: Felix Fermin, Roger Cedeno, and Aaron Miles. Things haven't gone exactly as planned for former top prospect (#3 or better in baseball for four straight seasons) Delmon Young.
So where will he go? Who will take a chance on him, hoping there's still latent talent buried under layers of … well, you know. Delmon. Layers of Delmon. There has to be one team out there.
Also he throws bats at umpires and yells anti-Semitic slurs when he's drunk outside the New York Hilton. But now you're just nitpicking.
See, this is where I usually pick the "favorites" for the free agent's services. But I'm not sure there's a favorite here. It's kind of like playing spin the bottle with a cactus. There are no winners, here, just unfortunate happenings. But I guess there could be a lefty-mashing year or two up Young's sleeve. He really was an outstanding prospect at one time, and he's still just 27.
You would have to figure Young would only interest teams needing a right-handed complement at DH. And preferably not one of those nerdy teams who pay too much attention to the numbers, which means my brilliant Houston idea is probably out.
Give me the White Sox, then. As a complement to Adam Dunn on a one-year, make-good deal, Young makes a little sense. And against tough left-handers, Young can play center in place of Alejandro De Aza. Or, at least, he would if I were running the team. Because what do I care about the White Sox? I just want to be entertained.
Again, this is a tricky spot because there really isn't an ideal. The Dodgers. There, that's the ideal. Playing shortstop.
I'll go with the Astros, even if they're on the sabermetric side of the spectrum. The idea would be for Young to have a renaissance season on a one-year deal, which would make him marketable at the deadline. Or something. This is easily the hardest free-agent matchmaker I've done. What team would you put Young on? There isn't a good fit in the A.L., and you can be sure that National League teams aren't going to want him in the field.
I mean, there's no way that …
Giants, one year, $6 million. I will have opinions.