Should We Be Concerned About Kevin Youkilis?

Toronto, ON, Canada; Boston Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis reacts after striking out in the 9th inning as Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia makes the putout at the Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays beat the Red Sox 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Six games into the season, the answer to any headline question such as the one posed above is nearly an automatic "no", as not enough has happened for us to be truly concerned or worried about just about anything, short of season-ending injuries that change a team.

It's easy to get a little worried about Kevin Youkilis, though, as he is just 2-for-20 on the season with no walks, as a follow-up to a spring in which he hit .195/.353/.220 over 18 games and 41 at-bats. Add in that he finished the 2011 season by hitting .190/.304/.342 from August onward, and we've got a whole lot of negativity surrounding Youkilis's production over the last few months.

Youkilis bats in the middle of the Red Sox lineup, and if he's not producing, that interrupts the flow of the offense. With Carl Crawford already out, this leaves the team more vulnerable than they should be offensively. That, if nothing else, is supposed to be the one area where the Red Sox shine, and if Youkilis is hitting even worse than when he was playing on one leg late last year -- in addition to fielding like a statue at third -- then there are some potential problems looming for the lineup.

The chances of Youkilis being in something other than just a slump are fairly low, though. He's getting older, but he's not ancient by any means: Youkilis is in his age-33 season, three years younger than teammate David Ortiz. Prior to the hip bursitis and sports hernia, he was leading all third basemen in offensive prowess in 2011:

Third Baseman True Average
Kevin Youkilis .308
Chase Headley .298
Alex Rodriguez .298
Adrian Beltre .294
Evan Longoria .294
Mark Reynolds .289
Aramis Ramirez .283
Chipper Jones .280
Alberto Callaspo .275

True Average adjusts for park, league difficulty, etc., so don't think Youkilis is ranked first just because of Fenway Park. He was that good at the hot corner prior to injury.

Did those injuries have some lingering effects? Youkilis has been hurt often the last few years, and it could have just piled up to the point where he's no longer who he was. We'll need more time to see that, though. He's been awful and looked slow to begin the year, but it's 20 plate appearances, and he's working with hitting coach Dave Magadan to speed his swing mechanics back up.

Youkilis is a player to watch on the Red Sox, as he's going to impact the team one way or another with his performance. Whether that impact is positive or negative is to be seen, but it's too early to panic given his still-recent success at the plate.

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