Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Position: OF Height: 6-3 Weight: 205 Born: 9/14/85 Bats: Right Throws: Right
Delmon Young was the first player picked in the 2003 draft out of high school in Camarillo, Calif. The younger brother of Dmitri Young, Delmon was considered more advanced than his older sibling was at the same age, which is pretty impressive since Dmitri was himself a first-round pick, fourth overall back in 1991. Delmon signed too late to play in 2003, but the Devil Rays were aggressive and sent him to the Arizona Fall League for his pro debut. He hit .417 there, although his plate discipline was a bit shaky. Young began 2004 somewhat slowly for Charleston in the Sally League, with strike-zone judgment the main problem. But the light went on for him in early July, and he's been one of the hottest hitters in the minors for the last two months, hitting over .400 in August. He must be considered one of the very best prospects in the minor leagues right now.
Scouts love Young's physical tools and his baseball skills are well developed. The ball jumps off his bat and he shows plus power to all fields. Young went through a phase this spring when he tried to pull the ball too often, but he worked through that and has shown much better refinement over the last two months, pulling the ball when he can but also going with the pitch when necessary. He projects to hit for both average and power at higher levels, and has no particular pitch weaknesses, at least not that A-ball pitchers can exploit. Young's strike-zone judgment can be inconsistent, but again it has been much better over the last few weeks as he's adjusted to pro pitching. He may not be a walk machine, but he controls the zone well enough. Young's running speed is average, but he has good baserunning instincts and can't be ignored by pitchers. He has a right-field arm and good range in the outfield. Scouts praise his work ethic and intelligence, and coming from a baseball family is another advantage for him. Delmon knows what to expect in the pro environment.
Young leads the South Atlantic League in hits and RBI, and ranks fourth in slugging percentage. His walk rate is adequate and his strikeouts are not out of bounds for an 18-year-old power hitter. He doesn't turn 19 until later this month, giving him an excellent position on the age/development curve. The main concern for him is maintaining his plate discipline at higher levels, but given his age and performance this year I don't think this will be a long-term problem.
Young has had no serious health problems.
What to expect
The Devil Rays gave Young a major league contract when he signed, meaning that he has to stick on the 25-man roster within four years or they will risk losing him on waivers. At this point, it looks like Young will have no trouble meeting that timetable. Tampa Bay has no particular reason to rush him ahead of schedule, so his own development will determine how quickly he arrives. Young should play in Double-A in 2005, and if he does well there, he should get a shot for a major league job in 2006. Scouts say that Delmon will be a better hitter than his brother Dmitri. Even if he ends up being just as good, Delmon will have a fine career.
John Sickels is the author of The Baseball Prospect Book 2004, which can be ordered through his Web site, Johnsickels.com. His other book, "Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation," is also out, and can be ordered through online book outlets or your local bookstore. He lives in Lawrence, Kan., with his wife, Jeri; son, Nicholas; and feline friends Toonces and Spot.