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Many Factors Enter POY Decision

By John Manuel
September 12, 2005

See Also:
Delmon Young Named 2005 Player of the Year
Game Changing: How Delmon Impacts The Game
Chat Wrap: John Manuel took your questions about the selection

Delmon Young had expectations placed upon him. That’s what happens when you get drafted No. 1 overall.

The 2003 top pick has met them all, first by dominating the low Class A South Atlantic League (particularly in the second half) last year, then with a blistering performance in the Double-A Southern League this season. The 19-year-old finished his year in Triple-A, and although he struggled in August, it was not enough to diminish his breathtaking.

Young wasn’t an easy choice for Minor League Player of the Year, as Angels shortstop Brandon Wood gave him plenty of competition. Wood surpassed 100 extra-base hits, a feat that hasn’t been done since, well, no one’s sure. Easily searched databases only go back to 1990, and the most since then came last year, when Marlins farmhand Joe Dillon had 92. Moreover, Wood plays a premium defensive position and by all accounts does it at an acceptable level. Not to mention that Wood, as a 2003 first-round pick, has carried expectations of his own.

In past years when the race was more open, Wood would have been an easy choice—for example 2004, where Rockies lefthander Jeff Francis was so dominant that his average tools weren’t enough to keep him from winning. Wood had a better year and has a higher ceiling, and his 2005 season was more impressive than Francis’ 2004 campaign.

Baseball America’s Minor League POY award is coveted because of what it represents. It’s a balance between performance now and projected performance later. Wood has few holes in his season—we went looking. He hit 16 homers in two of the California League’s friendliest parks, at High Desert and at Lancaster, in just 22 games. Otherwise, there’s nothing negative about his season at all.

But the same can be said for Young—the case against him is meager. He hit “only” .285-6-28 in 52 games in Triple-A, as the International League’s youngest player. He slugged “just” .447. His biggest caveat for the future: Young drew four walks in 228 at-bats for Durham, and his 29-99 walk-strikeout ratio means it might take him a while to adjust to major league pitchers who control the strike zone better than he does. It’s difficult to replicate that kind of success with that kind of walk-strikeout ratio.

But it can be done. A hitter has to have extraordinary hand-eye coordination, a natural ability to get the bat head into the strike zone and keep it there for a long time, and the strength to drive any pitch to any part of the ballpark. That describes Young, who keeps earning his comparisons to Albert Belle, for all the right reasons.

The best prospect in the game had essentially the second-best season of any minor leaguer. For Baseball America, that’s an award-winning combination.

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