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Young, Not Youth, Could Be The Difference For Melbourne
11/10/2017 9:12 PM ET
 

MELBOURNE, Australia - In baseball it matters not what you have done, but what have you done lately.

In the most recent installment of the Australian Baseball League, the Melbourne Aces were the best of the bunch compiling a 26-14 record to finish top of the standings for the first time in franchise history. 

Last season's success was centered around elite hitting from Ronald Acuña, who not only made a strong push for league MVP but also was recognized this past season in the US as the 2017 Minor League Player of the Year.

With the Atlanta Braves requesting that Acuña return to the US before the end of the season (in order to resolve a green card issue) the Aces offense just didn't pack the same punch it did with the Venezuelan starlet. As a result, Melbourne came up short in the championship series against Brisbane en route to a 2-0 sweep.

The Aces were diligent this offseason in finding a similar bat that could help stabilize the middle of that lineup. Their solution: former MLB first overall pick Delmon Young.

Ferocious in both stature and strength, Young stands in at a towering 191 cm and 108 kg. He has only just turned 32-years old, nowhere near the age of "washed up". His efficient swing is still effortlessly violent like a bolt of lightning resulting in majestic feats of power.
During batting practice, he has turned the Melbourne Park- a homerun hitting graveyard-into a firework display. The ball doesn't just jump off his bat. It explodes.

Young will be tasked with anchoring the Aces lineup as constant run-scoring threat. Yet even for a player with 10 years of experience in Major League Baseball, it will be no easy task.

Teams will know of Young long before a pitch is thrown. Managers will attempt to orchestrate game plans that neutralize his bat with a flurry of off-speed pitches. More conservative skippers will simply take the bat out of his hands by refusing to offer him a strike.

Yet for Young there is more at stake than winning a Claxton Shield. This is the chance to perhaps win one more chance to play in the show.  
Few players have had more twists and turns in their careers then Delmon Young has had to endure since being selected by the then named Tampa Bay Devil Rays back in 2003. At first the success came easy. In 2005 he played only half a season in Double-A and was so good that the Southern League named him the MVP despite how few games he played. Baseball America, an organization devoted to following and reporting on players in the minor leagues declared Young as their Minor League Player of the Year. 

In August of 2006 he would make his MLB debut as a 20-year old for Tampa and blasted a 412-ft. homerun in his third at-bat for his first professional hit. The following season Young was named the runner up in the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year Voting after a .288 campaign with 13 home runs and 93 RBIs. 

But rather than see their homegrown prospect reach the prime of his career in the Devil Rays uniform, Tampa opted to cash-out on Young and flipped him and a couple other players to Minnesota in exchange for RHP Matt Garza and SS Jason Bartlett. 

Young would spend time with three other teams over his 10-year stint in the majors. Some of the highs were the stuff players dreamt of, like winning the 2012 American League Championship Series MVP to send he and the Detroit Tigers to the World Series. 

Yet there were lows also scattered throughout his career. After that stellar 2012 postseason, the Tigers-much like the Devil Rays-essentially gave up on Young by not resigning him citing that outfield was already too "crowded" and there was no room for him to play. Then there were incidents outside the baseball diamond that got Young into trouble causing general managers to question Young's signability. All of which has brought us to this: a 32-year old player who hasn't played in the majors since 2015 still oozing with big-league talent.

Melbourne could be the perfect destination for Young at this juncture of his career. 

He was playing for an immensely experienced manager in John Deeble. The Aces have a talented roster that is built for winning. Most importantly, like those before him (most recently Hoskins, Guthrie, Engel and Gregorius) the ABL could serve as the perfect stage for Young to fast-track his career back to 'the show', showing the baseball world that there is more to give from a player who already has career batting average of .283 and over 550 Major-League RBIs.

The simple truth is that if Young can do what he did in his first exhibition at bat with the Aces - launch the first pitch he saw deep into the Melbourne night - all season long, teams would be foolish to pass up the opportunity to turn down a player who still has thunder in his bat.

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.