December 18, 2012
The Keeper Reaper
First, Third, and DH for 12/18/12
Next season, Youkilis changes from one set of pinstripes to another, a move that will have Sox fans of both colors, and even Yankee fans, trying to adjust to the change. For fantasy owners, however, a far more important question is whether the Greek God of Walks will change from the player who earned just over a buck in Medium leagues last season.
Some of that decline came from assorted injuries that held him out of nearly a month’s worth of games last season. Since those injuries were to his trunk and legs, they could account for some of his diminished power production; his .174 ISO was his worst since 2007. Injuries are nothing new to Youk, who has hit the DL each of the past four seasons for reasons ranging from a sports hernia to a torn thumb tendon. This fragility is an obvious red flag; remaining healthy is a skill, and it’s one that Youkilis has yet to demonstrate he possesses. Maybe it’s that goofball swing, which is part Sadaharu Oh and part Fast Eddie Felson.
Whatever the source of his declining production, it has manifested itself in several ways. His .268 BABIP last season, a career low, came from his increasing groundball rate, which has risen in lockstep with his declining BABIP over the past four seasons—one of the reasons such declines can’t always be chalked up to mere misfortune. As Youk’s ground balls have increased, his fly balls have diminished, bottoming out at a career low 36 percent in 2012. Only a 16 percent HR/FB ratio (his second-best ever) prevented last season from being even worse in the power department.
What hasn’t changed much is Youk’s batting eye. Last year’s 10.0 percent walk rate was his worst since 2008, but he is likely to recover some of that with the ever-patient Yankees, coming closer to his 12.3 percent career average. The same could be said for his 21.2 percent whiff rate in 2012, also part of a three-year trend in the wrong direction (but not too far from his 18.5 percent average). What may be gone forever is Youk’s modest power, along with the durability he never possessed. His skills make him valuable in many medium leagues, especially those that count OBP, but so many question marks about his health and performance going forward drops him from the top ranks of keepers into the company of the mere demigods of walks.