Why I Like Delmon Young This Year

Delmon Young has a had an up and down career with more downs than ups, but I think he can provide more value to a roto team this year than most initially assume. He is coming off a year in which he played in 124 games and netted just an 88 wRC+, but I still believe he can produce in a potent Tiger lineup.

Delmon is just one year removed from a .298/.333/.493 line in which he hit 21 homers and drove in 112 RBI. That was a stellar fantasy year, as he produced well in many standard categories. While he will always have a very poor walk rate, his bat control is decent and he should not kill your team’s average. In fact, there’s a good chance he improves it, as his career .288 average is rather respectable.

His season last year was poor, but he is in a better situation in Detroit. In his 40 games in Detroit last season, he hit 8 home runs and batted .274. This was a small sample, but it shows that his power really came on late in the season. According to StatCorner, Detroit’s home ballpark has a 108 home run factor for right-handed hitters compared to 95 for Minnesota’s. Comerica Park is pitcher friendly, but right-handers are able to push the ball out of the stadium at an above average rate, which should help Young’s home run total.

Also greatly helping Young this year will be his placement in the lineup. Batting directly behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder should give Young a great opportunity to hit with men on base and drive in runs. For reference, the league average line with men on base last year was .261/.332/.403 compared to .255/.321/.399. There is not a huge uptick in numbers with men on base, but there is a good opportunity for Young to be in that position more frequently than most hitters since two hitters who are expected to produce OBPs near or above .400 hit in front of him.

ZiPS projects a .283 average, 18 homers, and 86 RBI for Young, which is serviceable for a fantasy lineup. Delmon is one of the rare breeds whose fantasy value likely trumps their actual on field value. Delmon has only appeared in 20 games at DH in his career, so his .316/.345/.494 line as a DH does not guarantee success in that position. The 10% discount in production given to pinch hitters is assumed by designated hitters as well, so there is reason to be cautionary in regards to Young’s move to primary DH. It is worthwhile to keep track of how the Tigers use their DH position though, as Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder may end up with more plate appearances at DH than Young as the season advances.

In short, there are plenty of reasons to dislike Young but there are also reasons to expect him to produce well. He is the type of hitter I take a flier on in the later rounds, as he can produce well in four categories for a cheap price. He may bust, but he is in a good situation, in a stadium that should help his home run total, and is still just 26 years old. Your team won’t be devastated if you pass up on Delmon, but you could be missing out on good fantasy value at a very cheap price.

Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.

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Agh, I hope Miggy’s right about being ready for Opening Day, but I’m worried!