In the search for more right-handed hitting to help balance all the lefties in the lineup, the Yankees are leaving no stone unturned. The recent signing of Matt Diaz signals that GM Brian Cashman is serious about finding the best possible player to hit against southpaws. Names such as Justin Upton and Giancarlo Stanton have come up in recent trade rumors, while Scott Hairston and Delmon Young have surfaced in free agency. Many fans are pining for the first three names, but not the last. Here’s why:
It’s no secret why the Yankees are steering clear of Delmon Young, while he always seems to burn them in the playoffs, he also not worth taking a risk. Each of the last two seasons he’s been a below average hitter. In 2011, he hit .268/.302/.393 (88 wRC+), while in 2012 he recorded a .267/.296/.411 slash line (89 wRC+). The only reason he would be signed is to hit lefties, which he has hit very well over his career (.307/.341/.483 in 1046 PA).
The problem begins with his approach at the plate. Sure he doesn’t strike out a ton (17.5% K% over his career), but he also doesn’t walk much either (4.2% BB%). The Yankees could use more contact-oriented players, but with this ballclub it takes a little more than contact to be included in the everyday lineup. Young does possess some power (.145 ISO), but he would also be hitting into the cavern that is right field in Yankee Stadium.
Looking at his plate discipline numbers, he likes to swing at a ton of pitches outside the zone (44% O-Swing% compared to 35% league average). Luckily for him, he makes less contact than league average with pitches outside the strike zone, meaning he’s not making “bad contact” as often. He also has a reputation as a “free swinger” and it definitely shows up in the stats (~60% Swing Rate compared to 46% league average). He makes contact at a below average rate as well, which doesn’t bode well since he’s a free swinger. Basically, he’s a poor man’s Vladimir Guerrero.
Even though the Yankees would primarily use his bat, he would presumably have to play the field at some point either due to injury or resting players. Playing the field isn’t one of Young’s strong suits. Simply put, he’s atrocious with the glove as evident by a -30.9 UZR/150 rating and -3 DRS in 226.1 innings last year. There was a reason Jim Leyland didn’t trot Young out there, especially in Comerica Park.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Young’s off-the-field issues, which will undoubtedly impact his future in baseball. Early in 2012 he was arrested in Manhattan on aggravated harassment and hate crime charges after an argument led him tackling a man and using anti-Semitic remarks to three others in the group. He was also suspended 50 games in 2006 for hitting an umpire’s arm with a bat after he was called out on strikes.
That said, the Yankees usually go after high-character players, like the Curtis Grandersons and Ichiro Suzukis of the world, so it would be a difficult sell for the Yankees to sign Young. Couple that with his hitting style and fielding ineptitude, and the Yanks can clearly let Young walk on by.