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Weekend hitter watch: Delmon Young

5/13/2011

Perhaps you're not interested in the fact that Minnesota Twins outfielder Delmon Young is slated to return to the lineup Friday, after missing nearly a month with an oblique injury. We've discussed the enigmatic Young quite a bit over the past few seasons, but make no mistake: His 2010 campaign was legit. Young always hit for a decent average, but 21 home runs and 112 RBIs are good for all of us. If Young is healthy, I'm willing to discount all his April numbers (the .228 batting average and lack of power) and focus more on what he did in 2010.

Entering the season, I thought matching the 112 RBIs would be tough, but even 90 this season would still be respectable, meaning this player who most viewed as overrated for years has actually become a bit underrated. Young remained consistent last year despite the perceived extra demands on him to produce runs sans Justin Morneau in the lineup; he knocked in 58 runs prior to the All-Star break, and 54 after.

Say what you will about his lack of plate discipline or shoddy defensive work, and they are pretty obvious flaws, but this is a 25-year-old hitter with a career .291 batting average over more than 2,300 at-bats, and the woebegone Twins haven't hit this season, so Young might get placed into the No. 4 or 5 batting spot right away, where RBI opportunities await. I'm not saying Young is a natural RBI guy; I'm saying he should knock in runs, though.

Young comes off the disabled list Friday, having been selected in the ninth round, on average, in ESPN live drafts, but now owned in only 55.3 percent of standard leagues. My guess is that number is about to go up, way up, and it all starts this weekend against the Toronto Blue Jays' Ricky Romero (a lefty, and Young hits them better), Jo-Jo Reyes (who hasn't won a start since the Reagan administration) and Brandon Morrow (2-6, 6.72 ERA on the road last season). I don't think the Twins rushed Young back, and I have no fears about activating him right away for fantasy.

Here are five other hitters I'll be watching a bit more closely than normal this fine weekend.

Grady Sizemore, OF, Cleveland Indians: We've seen the good, with six home runs (and 10 doubles!) in his first 18 games. The bad is obvious, as he's missed much of the past two seasons, and needed an MRI on his balky right knee two days ago. Sizemore's status is uncertain for the weekend. We hope for the best, but those in daily leagues should prepare for missed games.

Carlos Pena, 1B, Chicago Cubs: Give credit where it's due. He was hitting .167 a week ago. Now he's at .221 after three multihit games, and he's hit a few home runs. Let's see what he does against strong San Francisco Giants pitching. I'm willing to move Pena back into standard league relevance, but I'm not there yet. I'm still worried his batting average might finish at .221.

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals: So, are you impressed yet? I sure am. He'll face a few hard-throwing right-handers this weekend (Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer) as well as a guy who has won three of four starts (Brad Penny). And I'm not a bit worried about the rookie. I'd own him in every league.

Chris Denorfia, OF, San Diego Padres: Frankly, he is probably the team's best outfielder, but of course manager Bud Black is likely to write Will Venable's name in the lineup Friday at Coors Field. Or will he? Denorfia is thisclose to becoming fantasy relevant. Venable can run, but not from the bench. And I'm always watching Cameron Maybin, but I remain skeptical this will be a breakout season.

Roger Bernadina, OF, Washington Nationals: OK, I've all but given up on Michael Morse. Laynce Nix is the everyday left fielder now. Bernadina mans center, and so far he's stolen three bases in five games as the leadoff hitter. Those in deep leagues could certainly do worse, and there is some power potential here. I almost get the feeling that if Bernadina doesn't hit, the Nationals will simply demote him ... but I think he will hit.

More later on the pitchers to watch this weekend.