Prospect Retrospective and Career Profile: Kevin Youkilis, 3B-1B, Chicago White Sox
The Boston Red Sox today traded Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Zach Stewart and utility player Brent Lillibridge.
Here is a look at Youkilis, how he was rated as a prospect, and how his career looks in context.
Kevin Youkilis was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the eighth round of the 2001 draft, from the University of Cincinnati. He'd hit .405/.549/.714 with 22 steals, 59 walks, and 21 strikeouts for Cincinnati, but scouts didn't like him much and he wasn't even drafted as a junior, having to wait until his senior year, where he was considered a budget-oriented pick. He wasn't toolsy, looked slow and awkward on defense, and scouts didn't think he'd hit for power with wood. Despite the negatives, Youkilis hit .317/.512/.464 with an incredible 70 walks in 59 games for Lowell in the New York-Penn League, earning the sobriquet "The Greek God of Walks" from statheads. I gave him a Grade B- in the 2002 STATS Minor League Scouting Notebook.
Youkilis began 2002 with Augusta in the Sally League, but earned a promotion to the Florida State League after just 15 games. For Sarasota he hit .295/.422/.388 in 76 games, then moved up to Double-A Trenton where he hit .344/.462/.500 in 44 games. I gave him a Grade B+ in the 2003 book, and noted that his defense, while not wonderful, was underrated in my opinion. He was still downplayed by some scouts and traditionalists, but his contact ability was special, his strike zone judgment was superb, and he had enough pop to keep pitchers honest.
2003 began similarly: he hit .327/.487/.465 in 94 games for Double-A Portland. But a summer promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket was a disaster: he hit just .165 in 32 games. Granted he continued to control the strike zone, drawing 18 walks in 109 at-bats, but all the skeptics were now out in droves and claimed he couldn't hit advanced pitching. I still gave him a Grade B in the 2004 book, and figured that there was a "better than 50/50" chance he would adjust and resume raking soon enough. Scouts did note that he'd worked hard at his defense and was rated as an average defender by this point.
Youkilis ended up spending more than half of 2004 with the Red Sox, hitting .260/.367/.413 in 72 games. He followed that with a .278/.400/.405 mark in 44 games in 2005, then .279/.381/.429 in 2006. He was especially effective in the 2008-2010 window, hitting .312/.390/.569, then .305/.413/.548, then .307/.411/.564, with OPS+ marks of 144, 146, and 157. His defense, which was given poor marks by scouts in college and the early minors, was rated very highly by WAR in the 2007-2009 window.
Worn down by injuries, he slipped in 2011 and hasn't been effective at all this season, hitting .225/.311/.359 through 41 games with an 81 OPS+, the worst mark of his career. Still, Youkilis was one of the best players in baseball from 2007 to 2010, which is not something that scouts anticipated at all earlier in his career.
Youkilis currently has a career WAR of 28.1. Among third basemen, if his career ended today, this puts him in the neighborhood of Terry Pendleton (29.9), Mike Lowell (29.9), Jim Ray Hart (28.5), Whitey Kurowski (28.1), Hank Thompson (27.3), Dave Magadan (27.1), and Corey Koskie (27.0), solid players all.