Sunday, June 24, 2012

Youkilis - Right Team, Wrong Player

The web is buzzin' with Kevin Youkilis rumors, some saying the Bucs are in on him, others saying they're out. Here's one vote for hopin' they're out.

The 2010 Youk would be a coup, but it's not 2010 anymore. Youkilis is 33, and been on the DL three times since 2011. His strikeout rate is at a career high (24.2%), and his walk rate at a career low (8.7%). He plays corner infield, where the Bucs already have guys vying for time.

He's Casey McGehee, to all extents and purposes. Casey's 2012 slash is .236/.318/.350 with 3 homers and 16 RBI; Youk's is .225/.311/.359 with four long balls and 13 RBI. We suspect, too, that Youk won't find PNC Park nearly as accommodating as Fenway and the AL East venues as a hitter's yard.

McGehee is also a better fielder, with UZRs of 1.1 at both first and third; Youkilis is -0.8 at first and -1.2 at the hot corner. McGehee is 29 and trending upward at the plate with regular playing time. Youk is 33 and while the "grass is greener" scenario might rejuvenate him to a degree, it's hard to not assume that he's looking at the downward slope of his career.

And he would face the same situation in Pittsburgh that peeves him in Boston - he would still be a part time player, platooned at first with the occasional cup of coffee at third, with little viable option to use him in the OF. He's played on the lawn just 22 times in his career. The last time he was in the pasture was in 2009, and 18 of those OF outings were in 2006.

We just don't see any upgrade. We're not even sure that the FO is addressing the club's main weakness at the dish (which, in truth, is probably everywhere but center field and second base).

Corner outfield is where the FO should be looking. JT and Alex Presley, the players surrounding Cutch, haven't met expectations in the first half of the season, as platoon guy Garrett Jones has easily provided the most productive corner bat. Starlin Marte, who many anticipated would be in Pittsburgh this summer, is having his own growing pains at Indy, and Gorkys Hernandez is cut in the same mold as Tabata and Presley - good wheels, good glove, iffy stick. Josh Bell and Barrett Barnes are both a long way off.

But Boston is loaded with outfielders, and it's soon to become quite a crowd. Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury are both due to come of the DL shortly along with Scott Podsednik, and that leaves veteran regulars Cody Ross (.272/9/33), 31, and Ryan Sweeney (.292/0/13), 28, on the bubble. They also have touted but less productive youngsters Ryan Kalish, 24, and Lars Anderson, 24, in the system.

All the OFs are lefties, a nice fit for PNC. Ross is a nine year vet, with time in with the Giants, Marlins and Dodgers and briefly for the Reds. He's shown some pop everywhere he's been. Sweeney has been around the block, too, putting in seven seasons with the As and White Sox. He's an OBP guy without much muscle.

Kalish is a speed player that goes full tilt and can steal a base or two, ala Presley, while Anderson projects as a fourth outfielder type.

Ross is making $3M and will be a FA at the end of the year. Sweeney has another year of arb left, and is making $1.75M this year.

So hey, if you're looking for some help, Boston is a good place to start. Just make sure to shop for the right guys.

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