Was the 6-foot-3 corner outfielder really hitting like a diminutive utility infielder? Did the Twins really inherit a slap-hitting, scorched-earth producing former number one overall draft pick incapable of providing power? It was like buying a sports car only to find out it handled like a minivan.
However, as the calendar flipped to August, something started to click. Slowly, Young had his playing time increased and was given a full-time opportunity again when Justin Morneau went out for the season with his back injury.
Unfortunately, the season came to a halt as it is wont to do in the winter, keeping us from finding out how sustainable Young’s performance was. With almost zero abilities to get on base besides anything other than a hit, Young’s future performance will always be questioned. Furthermore, a level of skepticism will remain regarding his second-half output based up his nearly identical second-half output from 2008. Late last season Young hit .285/.337/.425 with six home runs in 206 plate appearances re-energizing his supporters that the best is yet to come…only to follow that up with a let-down in the first-half of ’09.
Carefully examine Young's front leg and the ensuing strides. Notice how more balance and smooth his motion is on the right as opposed to the Elaine Benes-type dance move on the left.
In the frame on the far left (2008), Young's open-stance is reminiscent of that of Frank Thomas. His front foot is almost behind his body with a deep bend. Last season, Young struggled mightily to elevate the ball - hitting just 44.9 percent of his total balls in play in the air. Part of the reason is because of his elongated stride towards the ball. After lifting his leg, his first movement is towards the right side of the field and then it loops back towards the pitcher before he plants on the left side of the field. This circular motion is wasted energy that actually zaps power from the lower extremities as he pulled open long before contact.
In the middle clip (May 2009), Young has altered his stance to a more balanced alignment with a whisper of an open stance. Although this is progress, getting his hips to stay closed for a fraction of a second longer, he's added a bit of a hitch as he turns his knee inwards (back at the catcher) before twisting it back at the field. It may seem like a minor flaw, it does slow the entire process down enough to where the kinetic chain does not generate the same power.
The clip on the far right (October 2009) Young has adopted a slightly closed stance but is essentially balanced similar to his approach in May. Unlike the two predecessors, Young simply picks up the front foot, shifting towards the mound and then rotates the hips through the hitting zone almost simultaneously with his hands.
There is no question that Young was driving the ball better in the season's final three months and it is attributed to him making much needed, albeit delayed, adjustments. The concern now is if he can maintain this approach throughout a long off-season without slipping into swings from the past that feel more comfortable. Considering that making solid contact is his only source of value, this makes him a fairly one dimensional offensive threat. In addition to carrying over his new-found mechanics into 2010, Young needs to tone down his overzealous plate approach and remember to take a few pitches. Last season, his 59.3 percent swing rate was the third-highest among those with a minimum of 380 plate appearances. His 2.9 percent walk rate was the fourth-lowest among the same total. Decreasing the former and increasing the latter will ensure sustained production from the left fielder.