Kevin Youkilis played for both the Red Sox and the White Sox in 2012, and neither team, the player, or the fantasy owner were happy with how the oft injured 33 year old performed (Youkilis will be 34 in March). Was all the hoopla with Booby, I mean Bobby, Valentine in Boston a mere blip on the road for Youkilis (he did perform better in Chicago)? Can Youkilis resurrect his once bright career, with the Evil Empire no less (he signed a 1-year, $12 million deal to go from the Sox to the Yankees in the most stick it to your face for treating me badly Beantown move he could make), or have injuries and the advance of Father Time relegated Youkilis to the realm of mid round draft picks that you are just hoping will pay off in the fantasy game?
The most obvious issue with Youkilis is his inability to stay on the field. After appearing in 145 games each year from 2006-08, Youkilis dipped to 136 games played in 2009. He then fell to 102 games played in 2010, 120 in 2011 and 122 last season. That means his average the past three years is 115 games a season. You can’t count on a player who is going to miss that much time because even if his rate of production is solid – more on that in a moment – a month an a half of missed games each season is unexceptable even if that player qualifies at multiple spots (Youkilis will be first base and third base eligible next season after appearing in more than 20 gamas at each spot).
A .283 career hitter, Youkilis hit .235 last season which is a dreadful mark by any measure (.233 with the Red S. and .236 with the White S.). A one year fall off? Perhaps. However, considering that he also hit a mere .258 in 2011 we need to investigate further. The first thing I notice is that the Greek God of Walks posted a 10.0 percent BB-rate, the lowest of his career in 2012 (the previous three years that mark was in the 13′s). Youkilis also struck out at the second highest rate of his career, his K-rate was 21.2, and the resulting 0.47 K/BB ratio was a career worst (career 0.67). He will need to rectify that situation immediately if that average is going to get back into the “normal” range for him. Second, his .268 BABIP was also a career worst, and the second straight year under .300 since he posted a mark of .296 in 2011. When you own a career mark of .322 this is a red flag. Oddly, his line drive rate has held steady the past two years at 20 and 20.7 percent (career 21.2) giving him an inkling of hope that perhaps he will be able to return to the world of the living in the batting average category.
As for his power, we’re talking 3-straight year with less than 20 homers. Of course, as I noted above, he’s just not playing enough games to really rack up totals in the counting categories. Given his rate last season – 19 homers in 122 games – if he had appeared in 140 games he would have gone deep 22 times. An issue with the long ball power though is a declining fly ball rate. From 2006-2010 Kevin was uber-consistent with a fly ball rate between 44.3 and 46.7 percent. The last two years that number has dipped to 38 and 36 percent. A one year fall of can be written off to some extent, but when you do it two years in a row, there is concern. At least he is still converting fly balls into homers at a solid rate as evidenced by his last five years of HR/F ratios: 14.9, 16.5, 13.6, 13.3 and 15.7 percent.
On the plus side we also have his rate of production with the White Sox. In 80 games with the Pale Hoes Youkilis went deep 15 times, knocked in 46 runs and scored 47 times. Given a baseline of 140 games that would lead to 26 homers, 81 RBIs and 82 runs scored, levels of production that aren’t at all different than what he was producing in his “salad days.”
I’m a big fan of Youkilis’ game, even if I detest his hideous setup position in the batters box (why in the world didn’t some batting coach at some point simply forbid him from his ludicrous hand position?). However, I’m not blind to what the numbers and what my eyes are telling me. Youkilis has drastically underperformed for two years now, and he’s basically been injured three years running. Is it fair to think that a 34 year old with a wounded ego will be able to turn back the clock? Maybe, but the arrow certainly isn’t tilting to ‘it’s a lock.’ Youkilis will need to regain his approach at the dish in order for the success to return, an I see no reason while he couldn’t do that with health. However, his production must be called into question given declining BABIPs mark and fly ball rates the past two years. Youkilis should be one of those middle round draft selections that you make with little expectation. Take him early enough that you don’t miss out on the dual position threat, but also make sure you roster him at a point where if he repeats his efforts from last season that he doesn’t kill your team. Youkilis is a corner infield option in mixed leagues on the hope that he hasn’t lost his game, that a move to New York and it’s strong hitter’s park will help, and that he is just mad enough to do his best to stick it to the Red Sox while in pinstripes.
By Ray Flowers