Kevin Youkilis needed a change of scenery. With the White Sox desperate for help at third, they happily obliged. While the 33-year-old third baseman carries a strong career line, Youkilis is batting just .233/.315/.377 this season. But Youkilis will also be moving into a better situation. He won’t have to worry about losing playing time to anyone, and will be moving to a more homer-friendly park. Even though Youkilis will be an upgrade for the White Sox, it’s unclear whether his performance will be strong enough for fantasy teams.
There are a few reasons to be concerned about Youkilis’ performance. For one, he’s getting old. Youkilis is a player that exhibits some “old player skills,” meaning he relies on power and walks, but contributes little in speed. He doesn’t fit the description perfectly, as he isn’t an elite home run hitter and does hit for decent average. Still, Youkilis is now 33-years-old, and it’s plausible to think his struggles could be related to old age.
There’s definitely reason to believe that Youkilis is in decline. I recently wrote up Youkilis on FanGraphs, and noted that he hasn’t been able to hit fastballs with the same effectiveness as in the past. He’s also struggled to make contact this season. All of his contact rates — O-Contact%, Z-Contact% and Contact% — are down this season. He just hasn’t been the same player this season.
Some of those struggles might be the result of a back injury. While Youkilis does have a lengthy injury history — the last time he had 600 plate appearances was in 2008 — he’s joining a team with one of the best medical staffs in baseball. Led by Herm Schneider, the White Sox have been able to keep injury-prone players on the field. Schneider managed to keep Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin relatively healthy in the mid-to-late-2000s, and has properly managed Jake Peavy and Chris Sale this season. Outside of John Danks‘ injury this season, the White Sox’s three main starters for quite some time — Danks, Mark Buehrle and Gavin Floyd — rarely missed starts. Schneider also worked wonders with Jim Thome. The White Sox’s training staff does exceptional work, and Youkilis should benefit from working with them.
If Youkilis can stay on the field, he could see some nice improvement in his numbers.
|US Cellular Field||102||117||96||96||62||135||103|
*The numbers in the chart are for right-handed hitters.
Both parks are tailored to hitters, but US Cellular Field highlights Youkilis’ strengths. And while he should lose some doubles, hopefully, those will turn into home runs in The Cell, which carries a 135 park factor to right-handed hitters. The White Sox’s home park also plays better to walks, which is Youkilis’ biggest strength. As long as he can walk and hit for power, Youkilis should provide value. He’ll still have an excellent opportunity to do that in Chicago.
Youkilis hasn’t been himself this year. And while a trade to Chicago doesn’t guarantee his success, there are a few reasons for optimism. Given how well his new home park fares with home runs, there’s a chance for Youkilis to salvage his season. Now that he’s working with one of the best training staffs in the game, he should stay on the field long enough to provide that value. But if age has caught up with Youkilis, there’s little the White Sox can do to save him.