At this time last season, you couldn’t have paid me to wear a Delmon Young t-shirt.

I hated the way the guy played, pure and simple.  I wanted an everyday outfield of Span in left, Gomez in center, and Cuddyer in right, even though Gomez’s numbers were as erratic as ever.  Gomez offered speed and excitement, for better or worse. 

Young was epitomizing why many writers had called GM Bill Smith’s first trade with the Twins a disaster.

Delmon hadn’t proven much in his two seasons with the Twins, though he did have a much stronger second half in 2009.  But I didn’t trust him out there at all.

Then came the offseason trade of Gomez for shortstop J.J. Hardy.  I was once again left cursing Smith, though I was happy to have Hardy shoring up the infield. 

However, once the 2010 season began, Delmon Young took every Twins fan into the Twilight Zone.  His numbers have been way up, and he is finally proving to be the everyday left fielder who can produce both offensively and defensively.

Minnesota has been missing that since Shannon Stewart.

Young dropped 30 pounds over the winter, showing up to spring training with a much leaner frame.  He was suddenly able to get to balls in the outfield that would have left him flopping around on the ‘Dome’s Astroturf only months before.

Young batted .284 last year, driving in 60 RBI.  In 2010, he’s batting .308 and has already surpassed his RBI mark from last season, and is leading the Twins in that category.  His numbers are indicative of a player who has truly turned a corner in his career.

Not only is Young putting up the stats to show his improvement, but his timing has improved markedly, as well.  At the end of last season, he drove in 10 runs over the critical last few games of the season.  He has carried that ability over to this season, most recently driving in three key runs in the Twins’ come-from-behind victory over the Sox at Target Field.

This is clearly not the angry, sometimes pouty Young that Twins fans saw in previous seasons. 

He has matured and improved in both major aspects of the game. 

Defensively, the stats show that Delmon is having his best season to date with the Twins.  His fielding percent is 98.1 percent, surpassing the 97.3 mark he put up in each of his first two seasons in the Twin Cities.  He has only recorded three errors so far, another positive indicator. 

By this point in the 2009 season, I remember being so angry with Young that, any time a ball was sent towards left field, I cringed a little, wondering if he would make an ill-advised slide to get under the ball, wind up coming up short, and then scramble to try to prevent the ball from going to the warning track.

I remember thinking, “Well, here’s an out” every time Young stepped to the plate in 2009, despite his late-season heroics.  I’m swallowing my words right now.

I am quickly gaining confidence in Young’s abilities in the field, and he truly has made left field at Target Field his own.  Generally batting seventh, he’s solidifying the back end of a lineup that used to have all the danger of a bag of cats.  Last season’s back end had the likes of Gomez, Matt Tolbert, and other fill-ins. 

Now, Young sets the table for Nick Punto and J.J. Hardy… neither of them big bats, but both representing a significant improvement over prior seasons.  Young is able to combine with their speed to create danger.

So folks, welcome to the Twilight Zone, where Delmon Young comes through in the clutch and is finally finding living up to his potential.

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