One of the game’s better all-around players since he broke into the starting lineup in 2006, Kevin Youkilis is the consummate professional.
When the team acquired superstar Adrian Gonzalez in 2011, Youkilis, who set the MLB record with 238 consecutive games without an error at first base, shifted to third to accommodate Gonzalez, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner.
In addition to playing excellent defense at both corner spots, Youkilis has anchored the middle of the Boston Red Sox’s lineup during the post-Manny Ramirez era.
Although he doesn’t possess the quickest feet or biggest biceps, the “Greek God of Walks” was one of the top first basemen in the American League from 2006-2009.
During that four-year stretch, Youkilis benefited from batting behind the dynamic duo of Ramirez and David Ortiz.
Often batting out of the five hole, he showed tremendous improvement from 2006-2008, increasing his home run totals from 13 to 16 to a career-high 29. He also went from a respectable 72 RBIs to 83 in 2007 before posting a career-best of 115 in 2008.
Along with that increase in power, Youkilis continued to show great discipline at the plate. From 2008-2010, he led the American League with a .964 OPS, outdoing superstars like Miguel Cabrera and Joe Mauer, according to Chuck Korb of Pro Star Management.
Though rookie sensation Will Middlebrooks has certainly lived up to his billing as a future middle-of-the-order bat, he isn’t nearly as polished as his predecessor.
The 6’4”, 200-pounder has shown impressive pop with six homers and 22 RBIs in just 30 games, but he’s also struck out 30 times and walked just six in that span.
Middlebrooks’ minor-league track record matches up with his current walk-to-strikeout issues as he struck out 18 times and walked seven times in 24 games in Pawtucket this year.
For comparison, Youkilis’ career walk-to-plate appearance ratio is .124, and his career on-base percentage is an impressive .388.
While Middlebrooks has tremendous long-term ability, Youkilis’ ability to play multiple positions on defense and get on base make him an asset for a mediocre team.