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Red Sox 2011 Third Base Preview: Kevin Youkilis

Kevin Youkilis (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

We continue our week-long series of previews with former first baseman and now-third baseman Kevin Youkilis.

I’ve recently figured out why Kevin Youkilis is so popular. It’s not his bat. It’s not that he plays the game with reckless, Patrick Ewing-level sweaty abandon. It’s that most men in Boston look like him. We see him in us.

While out at a bar a few weekends ago I noticed a number of young, white males with goatees in Red Sox caps. Many were bald or had very short hair. Youkilis gives hope to every sweaty, bald, slightly awkward man in Boston. He is like the Zack Galifiankas of baseball. If he can do it, maybe we can.

Enough of that. Youk’s production was good for a first baseman. If he continues to soak the apple (another fantastic old tyme baseball saying) at the same rate while manning the hot corner those numbers become even better. Youk’s OPS has risen each of the last three years, going from .958 in ‘08, to .961 in ’09, to .975 last year. Beltre’s OPS was .919, and that was quite a departure from his career mark of .791. Many bemoaned the loss of Beltre but his inconsistency rightly scared Theo off a multi-year contract.

Youk is also a superior fielder than Beltre. I’ve heard Beltre called the best defensive player at any position of all time by analysts but I’m just not buying those horse feathers. He was error prone in the first half last year and seemed disinterested in fielding at times.

Contrast that with Youk’s ability to play either corner position. Youk’s stated preference is third base, which bodes well when you remember he turned himself into the best or second best (behind the left handed Teixeira) defensive first baseman in the league, winning the ’07 gold glove in the process.

Youk is coming off a torn muscle in his right thumb that he is expected to be completely recovered from. The Red Sox infield really put the healthcare system to work last year, huh? Durability is a concern when it comes to Youk. He has never played in more than 147 games and the last three years he went 145, 136, 102. He plays hard to his own detriment sometimes, but I guess that’s why those sweaty, fat men love him so.

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