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The 2010 season for the Minnesota Twins has been one marked by constant injuries. With Orlando Hudson and Justin Morneau currently on the DL, along with Joe Mauer having had to sit out for extended stretches throughout the year, these three key contributors have missed a combined 74 games as of Saturday.
The biggest mystery of 2010 for Minnesota, though, has been their constant appearance at the top of the AL Central even after dealing with these problems. The reason for their continued success and staying power has been outfielder Delmon Young. Unheralded and unappreciated, he as been the answer in the Twins lineup and his monster season has carried Minnesota to within 1.5 games of the Central lead.
Advertised as a five-tool outfielder, the first pick of the 2003 draft had all the makings of becoming a superstar for the Tampa Bay Rays. Even after his 2007 rookie season, in which he finished second for ROY to Dustin Pedroia, Young had not yet tapped into his potential for Tampa.
Often cited for having an attitude problem after incidents in both the minor and the major leagues, Young was suspended for a bat-throwing incident in the minors during the 2006 season. Fed up with his off the field issues after uneven 2007, the Rays traded the former number one pick to the Twins for Matt Garza at the season’s end.
Incensed by the trade, Young proceeded to toil away in Minnesota for two seasons because of his lack of plate discipline and inability to adjust to the Twins offensive gameplan. With his game preparation absent along with his diminishing attitude, Delmon seemed to be giving into the naysayers who began to label him another first pick bust.
Invigorated by a torrid September, in which he batted .340 with 18 RBIs, Young received another confidence boost when Minnesota traded incumbent Carlos Gomez to the Brewers before the year began, insuring him a spot in the lineup. With renewed motivation and drive, Delmon shed 35 lbs and came into April at a lean 200 pounds and the best shape he’s been in during his major league career.
A watershed year for the former top prospect, 2010 has been a major resurgence for Young. Although he started off slow in April, the left fielder has not batted less then .313 in any full month and he exploded in July with a .434 batting average. With Morneau and Mauer missing extended time during the dog days of July, Young moved up in the lineup and helped the Twins stay in contention for the hotly contested AL Central crown.
By retooling his game to tone down his power output and focus on contact, Young has become an RBI machine and has seen the home runs come through his natural ability. Instead of the usual 100 strikeout seasons we became accustomed to, Delmon only has 44 through 103 games this year. Using his gap power in the spacious Target Field, Young has 34 doubles, his most since his rookie season and 4th in the AL, and also ranks in the top 10 in both batting average and RBIs.
Although the surface statistics look good for Young, they only tell of some of his contributions to Minnesota. With the constant shuffling of the lineup, Young has bone from the number 7 hitter in April to the vaunted cleanup spot by August. This opportunity to drive in runs has helped Young capitalize with men on base, something he has excelled at all season.
With runners in scoring position, the Twins leftfielder is hitting an otherworldly .420 and has 64 of his current 82 RBIs in that spot. In situations that are defined as Late and Close (the 7th or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck), Young is hitting .355 with 18 men batted in, while only striking out seven times in those 62 ABs.
“He’s had so many big hits, even hitting from the 7 or 8 hole,” Justin Morneau said. “He’s made adjustments. His preparation is really good. He has a plan for his at-bats.”
Even though Young still has lapses in plate discipline, he has been able to make contact on pitches out of the zone instead of swinging and missing. Although he will get himself out at times at the plate, the left fielder has been nothing short of amazing for Minnesota during the year. Only 24 years old, Young has the ability to form one of the best 3-4-5 lineups in baseball once Mauer and Morneau return to full health.
Having two former MVPs and another candidate for thee award this year in Young, Minnesota has the foundation to win now and for the future. With the heat turning up in the coming months, Young and the Twins should be prepared for the pressure that comes with a division race and beyond.
Topics: Attitude Problem, Brewers, Carlos Gomez, dustin pedroia, Game Preparation, Gameplan, Incumbent, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Matt Garza, Minnesota Twins, Naysayers, Outfielder, Rbis, Rookie Season, Staying Power, Stretches, Tampa Bay Rays, Torrid, Two Seasons