Draft day 2003 was a good one for Detroit’s Delmon Young as he was selected first overall by the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Within two years of being drafted Young was living up to the No. 1 selection by winning the Southern League MVP in 2005 in just 84 games. In the middle of the 2005 season Young made the jump to Triple-A Durham and finished out the 2005 year as Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year and top prospect for 2006.
Regardless of the accolades he had earned, 2006 would not be a pleasant year for Young in the minors. On April 26, Young was punched out on strikes, after the call he remained in the batter’s box staring at the umpire until he finally surrendered his ground and headed to the dugout. But he wasn’t done, Young then threw his bat at the umpire, striking him but not seriously injuring him. Despite issuing an apology Young was suspended for 50 games and docked his game checks for that time.
Umpire incident aside, Young got the call to the majors in late August of 2006 and he wouldn’t disappoint. He stood in against the Chicago White Sox’s Freddy Garcia, who hit him with the first pitch. Young then struck out in his next at-bat before belting a 412-foot home run in his third at-bat.
Young continued his strong start in his first full season in the majors in 2007, finishing second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting to Boston’s Dustin Pedroia. In his first year with the Devil Rays Young hit .288 with 13 home runs and 93 RBI, not too shabby for a rookie. But Young had become a commodity that the oft-struggling Devil Rays could deal.
On Nov. 28, 2007, Young was traded to the Minnesota Twins with Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie and in return the Devil Rays received Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza and Eduardo Morlan. It’s quite a shock to go from palm trees and pina colada’s and finishing second in the ROY voting to the cold, hefty-bag using Metrodome in Minnesota.
In Minnesota Young began to show signs that he wasn’t the best outfielder out there. In 2008 Young recorded eight errors, the most for any starting left fielder that season, but he also led the America League in assists. His bat didn’t show any signs of decline in 2008, he hit .290 with 10 HR’s and 69 RBI. So the Twins continued to give the former No. 1 pick a shot.
He wouldn’t again get another shot to be the starting left fielder until the 2010 season after the trade of Carlos Gomez to the Milwaukee Brewers. The knock on Young, much like his brother Dmitri in Detroit, was his weight, which some had suggested might be hampering him in the field. Knowing that he had a starting role, Young dropped 35 pounds before the 2010 season and turned in his best season by hitting .298, 21 HR’s and 112 RBI. While the weight loss may have helped his offense, it didn’t help his defense in left field where he led the American League with four errors and sported the lowest fielding percentage, .984.
With his defense in question, but not his bat, Young found himself shipped off to Detroit on August 15, 2011 in a trade that sent Cole Nelson and Lester Oliveros to the Twins. The Tigers had a need for a big bat going into the playoffs and Young provided that for them. After joining the Tigers Young hit eight home runs but once again, his defense suffered in 2011. He once again led the entire sport with seven errors in left field.
In 2012, the Tigers began the season with Young as their every day left fielder, not sure why, but he started the season slow and eventually ran into trouble with the law on a team trip to New York City. In late April the Tigers came into New York and headed to their team hotel, Young found himself intoxicated and in front of the hotel later that evening where he allegedly harassed a group of tourists while shouting anti-Semitic slurs.
After this latest incident, Young has found himself as the Tigers designated hitter most nights but his offense has begun to turn the corner and he is now hitting .268. However, with the poor performance Detroit has turned in thus far this season, Young is being looked at more and more as an asset that could be parted with in Detroit by fans. Whether he will remain in Detroit or not is not known yet, but what is known is that there probably isn’t a more winding path that a No. 1 pick could have traveled than that of Delmon Young.