Call Kevin Youkilis whatever you’d like, but he’s a Yankee now and for some that is still hard to take.
Honestly, I find it hard to accept after he spent the past 10 years as my most hated Red Sox player. I find it a little ironic when I think back to 2008 when friend asked me, “Would you ever cheer for him if he played for the Yankees?” My answer was a resounding, “No.” So we’ve come to a point where I became a convert and believe he’s going to have a solid year with the Yankees. How did I turn, you might ask? Well, it’s not as difficult as you’d think.
For seven years he wore that Red Sox uniform, we hated Youkilis. You, me, anyone who wasn’t a Red Sox fan spent time hating him especially because he was consistent and very productive against the Yankees. There is not a piece of Youkilis’ game that you can pick out and say that he was in need of drastic improvement. This is why I believe he’ll have a pretty solid campaign with the Yankees.
Youkilis won’t hit 30 home runs and drive in over 100 RBI’s. He’s never done that in his MLB career so please do not think it’s going to happen this year. I do think he will hit near to his previous career averages of .283/.384/.482 and I’ll give you a couple reasons: the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium and Kevin Long.
Yankee Stadium is a launching pad (see: Russell Martin or Raul Ibanez). The home runs haven’t been flying out as frequent as, say, 2009, but the stadium is very hitter friendly and this will definitely help Youkilis as Fenway plays short to left as well and he is predominantly a pull hitter.
His overall numbers show that he’s been an above average player (.283/.384/.482). There’s nothing to suggest that his career is on the steep decline by any means. Although he is 34 and has dealt with a few injuries in recent years, it’s entirely feasible to see those career numbers take an upturn especially hitting in a lineup that boasts one of the best hitters in the game in Robinson Cano. Not only Cano but when Curtis Granderson comes back, there will be a little more firepower.
Speaking of Granderson and his power, let’s look at who was partly responsible for that change — Kevin Long.
Long is responsible for the changes made in numerous Yankee players, most notably Granderson. Long has gotten the most out of the Yankee bats and has created career changing swing alterations. He was responsible for the tweak in Granderson’s swing that generated more power and the ability to see the ball longer. Many other hitters including Ibanez, Nick Swisher, and Cano also have credited him with being a big help. Alex Rodriguez once claimed that Long could add 40 points to any batter’s average.
Long has recently changed Youkilis’ stance and it seems for the better. He’s already whacked five home runs this spring and is settling in nicely come the start of the year. We’ll see what changes have and haven’t worked but for now it looks like Long has things working for Youkilis and the timing couldn’t have been in greater.
Everything from the new ballpark, being injury free, and working with Long suggests that things will get better for Youk. By the time the season is over, his $12 million, one-year deal might look like a very smart move.