Thirty teams, 30 burning fantasy questions. Throughout the preseason, we put one of these questions to an ESPN.com analyst for an in-depth look at the most interesting, perplexing or dumbfounding fantasy facet of each major league team.
Are Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez ready for prime time?
Get rid of him!
That Tom Cruise guy? I mean, he was in "Endless Love" in '81 and "Taps" in '83. Those movies stunk. It's clear he's got no future as an actor.
And that David Foster Wallace guy? Have you read that pretentious first novel of his, "The Broom of the System," published back in '87? It's basically Thomas Pynchon Lite. You think that guy will ever wind up writing a book worth reading? Feh!
Oh, and there's this band. They were known as the Golliwogs and they put out seven singles on Fantasy Records back in the mid-'60s. No one ever heard of any of the songs, none were hits, and really, why in the world would anyone care about them ever again? Even if they did eventually become Credence Clearwater Revival?
My point? Not everything big has to be an overnight sensation. My test case? One Delmon Young, an uber-hyped outfielder whose major league team, the Tampa Bay Rays, gave up on him after just a season, dealing him to the Twins for Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett and Eduardo Morlan. No, Young wasn't particularly awesome last season, not after a winter of five-tool hype that put the "Cloverfield" viral marketing campaign to shame. All told, Young hit .288 with a .723 OPS, with just 13 homers and 10 stolen bases. Why, he didn't even win the AL Rookie of the Year. The nerve of that guy!
Young doesn't turn 23 until September, he has probably the best arm in the majors among players who'll spend most of their time in left field, will either hit third or fifth in a lineup that plays in an offense-friendlier stadium than the one he just left, and hasn't lost any of his much-hyped speed. It is, to my way of thinking, twisted and bizarre to love a rookie as much as we all loved Young, see him fall just short of a .300 season with 100 RBIs (he had 93), and decide he's actually a worse bet in his sophomore season. Offensively, is he going to be Hanley Ramirez in '08? Probably not. But to suggest that he's officially a bust after one season? That's just nuts.
I grant you, Young needs to make progress at the dish. He hit too many grounders (46.3 percent of his contact) and had a poor strikeout-walk ratio (127-26) in '07. The Rays also didn't let him run much: Young played in every single game last season, but had just 13 stolen base attempts (he was successful 10 times). I'm not trying to argue that he wasn't disappointing in '07. I'm just saying that there's so much room for growth. Frankly, I think it's kind of good Young is hitting more grounders and liners than fly balls this early in his career. That's the path to a .300 average, which is a mark I think he'll eclipse this season, and the power will come. Young needs to be a ton more patient at the plate, but it's safe to say that the Twins have been a better organization at fine-tuning young power prospects than the Rays.
Lastly, we have the question of steals, which brings up the other subject of today's question, Carlos Gomez. The Twins aren't an elite organization for green lights, but you might be surprised to learn that they attempted the fourth-most stolen bases in the American League in '07, with a team that was expected to be more competitive than this season's edition. Ron Gardenhire is a smart guy, and he has to realize that the strength of his offense as currently constituted is speed and athleticism. In other words, there's no way Young only has 13 stolen base attempts in 2008. I think he'll get north of 30, which could mean 20 to 25 steals.
As for Gomez?
The good news is that the Twins aren't exactly bursting with alternatives for their leadoff spot, so even if Gomez's hitting isn't quite (as this edition of 30Q would have it) "ready for prime time," he's still probably getting the top spot, which should mean an inflated number of runs scored and a healthy dose of steals. How healthy? He'll get you 25 steals rolling out of bed, even as a part-time player, and if he keeps the starting gig all season, the ceiling is much higher. This is, after all, a player whose legend has him "faster than Jose Reyes." And that's fast. That makes him draftable in all AL-only leagues under the sun, and worth a flier in mixed leagues, too. His on-base skills aren't good enough yet for him to be a sure thing and he offers no power, but the Twins aren't winning anything in '08, and that means Gomez will have a longer leash than a lot of other 22-year-olds in the majors.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner across all three of those sports.
You can e-mail him here.