2012 Red Sox Player Preview: Kevin Youkilis

Youkilis looks to stay healthy for the first time since 2009

2011 was more or less a lost season for Kevin Youkilis.  A troubling hip and sports hernia cost Youkilis 40 games last year, a year after the sports hernia and thumb injury cost him 60 games.  Youkilis finally had surgery to repair the sports hernia on October 4th.  He’s hoping he can get over the hump and return to the form that made him one of the premiere first baseman in the league.  The Sox had a formidable offense without Youkilis in top form last year so getting him back into shape and hitting to potential would be icing on the cake for the potent Boston offense.

Here’s a look at Youkilis’ 2011 season (career highs in parentheses):

Games: 120 (147, 2006)
Average: .258 (.312, 2008)
On-Base Percentage: .373 (.413, 2009)
Slugging Percentage: .459 (.569, 2008)
On Base plus Slugging (OPS): .833 (.975, 2010)
Home Runs: 17 (29, 2008)
Runs Batted In: 80 (115, 2008)
Runs: 68 (100, 2006)
Doubles: 32 (43, 2008)
Walks: 68 (91, 2006)

2012 Season Outlook:

Youkilis has to be disappointed by his production over the course of the last two years.  Hopefully the procedures that he’s had over the last two off-seasons will give him his healthiest year in three seasons.  Youkilis has said to be feeling great so far this spring and he seems to be moving around better than he had during the last two seasons.  If Youkilis can stay healthy he’d be a boon to the middle of the Sox lineup.  The Sox sorely need a right handed hitter in the middle of the lineup to complement lefty sluggers David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez.  Youkilis’ power numbers didn’t take too big of a hit in the last two seasons, he had 19 and 17 home runs respectively in limited time, so keeping him in the lineup should add another 20+ homers to the heart of the order.

Youkilis can still take a walk with the best of them

One thing that is for certain is that Youkilis can still take a walk.  He had 68 walks in 120 games last year and 58 in 2010.  Some full time players don’t even reach that in a season.  Youkilis consistently has an OBP of about .100 points higher than his AVG.  Last year he was .115 points over.  Youkilis should continue to get on base and that is why he is such a valuable member of the Red Sox lineup.  The question is where to do you hit Youkilis in a revamped Bobby V. lineup?  If you hit him as low as 6th you would rely on guys like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Mike Aviles to get him home when he gets on base.  Is he a guy that you use near the top of the lineup?  I guess we will see where Valentine likes him at the beginning of the season.

A big worry for Youkilis in the wake of his rash of injuries over the past few seasons is how his defense will hold up.  Youkilis’ injuries are similar to that of fellow 3rd basemen Mike Lowell and Alex Rodriguez.  Lowell really fell off a cliff in his last few years with the Sox but he was a few older than Youkilis will be this year when the drop off occurred.  The same could be said for A-Rod who really started falling off defensively over the last year, year and a half.  It might be tough to play 3rd base still when Youk reaches 35 which is still 3 seasons away.  It may be wise to look into the future and see if perhaps Youkilis is a guy that you could use to replace David Ortiz as a full time DH down the road.  For 2012 at least Youkilis will get the lion’s share of playing time at 3rd base.  Here’s hoping that his body can hold up.

Youkilis hopes his injuries won't hurt him too much in the field

Youkilis is the second most tenured player on the Red Sox now and he’ll likely have to take on more of a leadership rule.  He doesn’t have a problem calling out teammates, sometimes in public, but overall you don’t get the sense that he is widely unliked by his teammates as some of the media may intimate.  I’d imagine that Youkilis should get on just fine with new manager Bobby Valentine.

Health is the most important factor for Kevin Youkilis in 2012.  He’s been amazingly consistent and productive over his career when he’s been healthy.  His range might start becoming an issue but his bat (and his eye) should still be worth the price of admission, at least for now.  Hopefully the reports of his improved shape are true and he comes in and puts together his first healthy season in 3 years.  If he can he’s a huge asset.

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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