From when he broke into the big leagues in 2004 through the 2010 season, the Greek God of Walks never had a walk rate lower than 10 percent or a K rate higher than 22 percent; key factors in his spectacular WAR [wins above replacement] and wOBA [weighted on base average] during those seasons.
In 2011, however, things changed for Youkilis at the age of 32. His 2011 season was riddled with injuries to his ankle, hip, hand, back, thigh; and the list goes on. He managed to play in just 120 games for the Red Sox, while seeing his batting average dip below .300 for the first time in three seasons and his slugging percentage take a dramatic drop down to .459. He was able to keep his walk rate up, but his wOBA dropped 53 points down to .366. Many expected a bounce-back season in 2012, but that was far from the case as he again battled through injuries and hit a career-low .235 with a .336 OBP.
Now we sit here in January of 2013 and Youkilis is a member of the New York Yankees after signing a one-year deal. He comes to New York with the opportunity to start thanks to the balky hip of Alex Rodriguez, and as every day passes and news breaks on A-Rod’s injury, the length of Youk’s stay as the starting third baseman seems to increase.
Rodriguez still has not had surgery and is now scheduled to go under the knife on Jan. 16. All signs now point to the best-case scenario being a return after the All-Star Break. With that being the case, it’s looking like fantasy owners can expect Youkilis to be a starting third baseman in a great lineup for at least the first half of the season, if not more. Youk now has the chance to prove himself early on and force his way into the lineup even when Rodriguez returns.
Knowing this fact, drafting the Greek God of Walks in 2013 is a bit more enticing, but what about his prospects? Why should you draft an aging bat that has dealt with nagging injuries over the past two seasons? Well, it all depends on value. Many owners are going to be sour on his future, and rightfully so. A closer look at the numbers, however, reveal some positive signs.
When Youk headed to the Chicago White Sox, he was still plagued by injures but did improve after the change of scenery. He had a solid July with a walk rate of 17.4 percent to go along with six home runs and 19 RBI in the month. Injuries took a toll again, but when he was on the field he showed signs of the player of old. Despite playing in 122 games, he still managed to finish with a respectable 19 home runs, which tied the third highest total of his career. He is still a disciplined hitter, in a typically disciplined Yankees’ lineup, who could be positioned to score plenty of runs depending on where he hits.
There aren’t going to be many hitters with the 20-80 potential Youkilis possesses, especially available in the mid to late rounds this spring. Plus, he may also have eligibility at both third and first base in most leagues, which only adds to his fantasy overall value.
Heading in to the off-season, it wasn’t looking like Youk would be a starter, but he is now entrenched in the starting lineup for the Yankees for the foreseeable future, so he can provide value late in all formats. The injury risk is still looming, but that is something that will help keep him available in the later rounds for you to dig up.