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Devil Rays Sign No. 1 Overall Pick Young
By Marc Topkin
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.No. 1 overall draft pick Delmon Young took a long time to join the Devil Rays, as negotiations dragged for more than three months until he signed a five-year major league contract Tuesday worth at least $5.8 million and as much as $6.2 million.
But Young doesn't expect it to take him very long to get to the major leagues.
"Hopefully within two years," said Young, who turns 18 on Sunday. "Sometime during the 2005 season."
Rays officials wouldn't put a timetable on Young, but it's clear they expect the power-hitting outfielder to move quickly.
"If he swings the bat it's going to be a quick track," general manager Chuck LaMar said. "The players sort of drive that train themselves. He has the God-given ability and work ethic and makeup to go through anybody's system relatively quickly, but he has to earn that right. The one thing with getting him signed is now it's time to go out and earn your keep and use that potential."
Young signed a five-year big league contract includes a $3.7 million signing bonus and a total salaries from $2.1 to $2.5 million for the 2004-08 seasons, depending on how much time he spends in the majors. The team will be able to option him to the minors four times, so he'll have to make the majors for good by 2008. If he becomes arbitration eligible, his 2008 salary of $700,000 will be voided.
No. 2 pick Rickie Weeks had established the previous bonus standard among 2003 draftees, getting $3.6 million from the Brewers as part of a $4.8 million big league contract. Young's financial package is the biggest in this year's draft and the second-largest in draft history for a high school player signing with the team that selected him. Josh Beckett, the No. 2 pick in 1999, signed a $7 million contract with the Marlins.
Young was the most accomplished high school hitter in the 2003 draft. Already 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, he projects as a slugging right fielder. He set a U.S. junior national team record with 16 homers in 2002, when he topped all players at the World Junior Championships with nine homers and 18 RBIs in seven games.
Young grew up around the big leagues as the younger brother of Tigers all-star Dmitri Young, and he has a relatively low-key approach. That may explain why he seemed rather reserved in the aftermath of his signing.
He described the Rays as "just another club, nothing special." He stated his dream wasn't signing but "winning the World Series." He said he wasn't particularly looking forward to his first workout, which will come Sept. 20 in instructional league, before he heads to the Arizona Fall League..
And he said the only thing he needed to get to the majors was the repetition of playing every day. "I'm just as strong as all these guys out here, I run just as fast as them, I throw just as hard as them," Young said.
He was somewhat enthused about joining the Rays group of young talented players: "We should be able win that World Series title before 2010," he said.
Marc Topkin covers the Devil Rays for the St. Petersburg Times.