Save Delwyn Young!

For a variety of reasons, Delwyn Young (or “Panda” or “Pee Wee”, to some) has always been an unsung hero of this blog. I suppose part of it is that you always have to have a soft spot for a local guy who grew up a Dodger fan, and part of it is that I’ll always love a guy who can bust out a good reference to The Sandlot. However, a big part of it is also that despite putting up huge numbers in the minor leagues, he’s never gotten even a fraction of the hype the rest of the young Dodger contingent has – despite my best efforts. We’ve been talking up Delwyn around here as far back as 2007, and even gave him his own “Free Delwyn Young!” campaign in June 2008, where I pointed out that:

I’m not exactly sure why he’s gotten such short thrift in the “hyping prospects” department. I mean, the kid has hit everywhere he’s played.

Delwyn Young, 6 minor league seasons (5 full seasons)
BA: .303
OBP: .359
SLG: .512
Seasons w/ 10+ HR: 6
Seasons w/ 30+ doubles: 5
Seasons where he broke a 41-year-old PCL record for doubles: 1 (2007)

Look at the line he put up in AAA last year: .337/.384/.571 and a .955 OPS. 54 doubles.

Sure, he was a lousy second baseman turned into a mediocre outfielder, and his MLB OPS+ of 75 in 2008 didn’t do much for him – though I would point out that having a 26 year old player with 39 career at-bats entering the season spend the entire year on the bench as a pinch hitter isn’t exactly doing him any favors.

delwyncelebrates.jpgAnyway, the reason I bring this all up again is because the 2009 Dodgers are going to have a very bizarre outfield configuration. While – as I delved into last week - the starters are amongst the best in the league, Juan Pierre is ill-suited to be a backup outfielder. I’m not going to turn this into yet another diatribe against Pierre, because we’ve covered all that already, but the simple fact is that his throwing arm is one of the worst in baseball. When you have a slugger like Manny who is often going to be lifted in the late innings for defensive purposes, most teams would have a superior defender on hand. Pierre’s simply not that guy.

Unfortunately, Delwyn’s not really that guy either, and having three-fifths of your outfield corps being below-average defenders isn’t exactly the ideal situation. In terms of defense, having Xavier Paul or Jason Repko (each of whom have great speed, strong arms, and can play center) is really the best fit for this particular puzzle.

Of course, this spring Young’s doing what he always does, and that’s flat-out hit. After putting a ball out of the park on Saturday against the Brewers, DY’s line for the spring stands at .321/.387/.526. Paul is also turning heads with his spring performance (.394/.459/.697), while Repko has probably played himself out of any shot with a lousy .182/.182/.280 line.

Young’s out of options, so while Paul can be sent down to AAA Albuquerque, Young cannot without clearing waivers first, which is unlikely. Yet, the need for at least one good defensive bench outfielder may force the club to choose Paul, and while I understand that, the idea of losing a player who’s done nothing but destroy the ball to the waiver wire is a little sickening. So with that I say, Save Delwyn Young! While he’s clearly not preferable to any of the three starters right now, I know I’m not the only Dodger fan who’d love to know what he could do give 500 at-bats.

But you know what? I know I said that this wasn’t going to be about Pierre, but if the fact that his lousy arm in addition to his punchless bat means that this team is cost the services of Delwyn Young by being forced to take Paul for his defense, that’s just yet another strike towards Pierre. That’s right: Juan Pierre – hurting the team even when he’s not playing.

Save Delwyn Young!