Dreading Delmon Young
The first batter hit a fly ball at Young and it landed for a triple. Young should have limited the hitter to a single had he taken a better route, said two people who attended the game in Lakeland, Fla. Later, in the seventh inning, Young committed a fielding error that allowed a runner to take an extra base.
He batted cleanup in single-A Clearwater’s lineup and went 1 for 4 with a sacrifice fly and single. While the Phillies are evaluating Young’s bat, they are primarily concerned with his defense.
“Delmon isn’t going to come here unless he can play right field,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said April 12. “If he can’t play right field, he ain’t coming.”
Everyone knew his defense would be an issue as soon as the Phillies signed him, so this isn’t surprising news. What is surprising is that the Phillies have had good production out of right field, at least from the similarly right-handed John Mayberry. In 32 plate appearances as the Phillies’ right fielder, Mayberry has posted a .978 OPS which includes a homer and four doubles. Laynce Nix hasn’t been anything to write home about as he is the author of a .345 OPS when in right. Sample size caveats abound. On the other hand, Domonic Brown has struggled offensively out of the gate. His OPS as the left fielder is a paltry .638.
The Phillies will have an interesting decision to make if and when Young is ready to join the 25-man roster. Ezequiel Carrera seems to be the easy choice for odd man out.
Compared to Mayberry, Young won’t add anything of value to the outfield. Like Mayberry, Young hits left-handers well, but right-handers not so much. Mayberry’s career wOBA against LHP is .372 compared to .308 against RHP; Young’s career splits are .352 and .309, respectively. Mayberry, obviously, runs the bases much better and plays better defense.
On the other side, as much as Brown has struggled as of late, he has only logged 60 PA in total and still has yet to have more than two consecutive months of consistent playing time at the Major League level. If Mayberry is hitting and Brown is not, the Phillies may be tempted to have Young usurp Brown’s role, but that would be counter-productive to the team’s long-term goals, which is developing talent.
The Phillies are fine without Young. They have the fourth-worst walk rate in baseball at 6.1 percent, and Young’s career 4.1 percent walk rate will only drag that down further. The Phillies are striking out more than all but five teams at 22.1 percent, and Young’s 17.5 percent rate isn’t very helpful. The Phillies are the fourth-best base running team according to FanGraphs; Young has cost his teams between three and four runs on the bases in two of the last three years. And, of course, the Phillies are weak defensively this side of Ben Revere, Chase Utley, and Freddy Galvis (when he does play); Young would only hurt them further defensively, as mentioned above.
To put this succinctly, there is nothing to look forward to when Young is healthy enough to join the 25-man roster. He would need to catch fire offensively more than Kevin Frandsen did last year just to have the Phillies break even over their other options.