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Perhaps you are aware of the best leadoff prospect in baseball since Wade Boggs. He happens to play third base and is property of the Boston Red Sox. His name is Kevin Youkilis - a minor deity featured in Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game and coveted by Oakland GM Billy Beane. One wonders how much the presence of Youkilis in the Sox' organisation weighed on Beane's original decision to jump ship. One also wonders whether the negotiated compensation for Oakland (Youkilis) was what pulled Billy back aboard. But I digress...

In the 2001 draft, the college senior was taken in the 8th round after remaining undrafted the year before as a junior. You see, this guy didn't look like an athlete: he wasn't fast, he wasn't strong and he didn't have great hands on defence. But he was very good at putting the bat on the ball and had an exceptional batting eye.

He put his skills on display in short-season A ball after signing, putting up numbers that were better than anyone else in the league. Did the baseball world take notice? Baseball America did not rank him as one of the top 20 prospects (11 position players made the list) of the New York-Penn League, nor did they include him in their list of top 100 prospects in baseball.

Here is the story the numbers tell about the Walking Man:
YrsLgPAOBPSLGPowernormBipAvgnormWalksnormK ratenormage
2001NYP260.512.464.140 .108.357.301.275 .086.108 .19822.29

When Youkilis posted similar numbers in AA, he could no longer be completely ignored by the baseball establishment. Baseball America ranked him the #17 prospect in the Florida State League and #8 in the Eastern League at the conclusion of 2002 although the publication still omitted him from the top 10 third base prospects list. Interestingly, the prospect lists by league are compiled after discussions with managers in those leagues. The top 100 and top prospects by position lists are based on assessments by scouts, who remain unconvinced by Youkilis' success.

Youkilis doesn't have much power, certainly not as much as a certain first baseman who posted a .525 OBP in AA as a 20-year old a few years ago. But Youkilis is extremely difficult to strikeout and he should hit for a little more power as he approaches 30. His promotion to AAA is long overdue.

Youkilis has always been regarded as too bulky and not agile enough to play the hot corner. Reports suggest that he now takes fitness and preparation very seriously (working out with Nomar Garciaparra over this past off-season) and has shed some pounds. It's certainly possible he will remain at third base and play adequate defence despite his "bad body" reputation (Boggs was regarded a poor fielder when he arrived in the majors).

Lack of power is why Youkilis is better suited to leading off than to batting #3. The worst case scenario for Youkilis (other than a career-ending injury) is that he moves to first base and becomes a rich man's Scott Hatteberg. The best case is that he becomes a righthanded Wade Boggs.

I predict that in a few years we will see this man putting up OBPs in the .380 to .420 range for the Red Sox.
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_Spicol - Monday, June 23 2003 @ 12:33 AM EDT (#99411) #
Speaking of Moneyball, most Indigo and Chapters stores that I've been in have it now. Strangely, it's in the business section of some...

Great book, by the way. After reading it, it's no wonder that Art Howe wanted to skip town. I won't ruin it for the rest of you. I was seriously surprised at how much play Bill James and Voros McCracken received in the book. The mentions of Voros got me thinking of DIPS again, which for some reason made me think of Cory Lidle.

If there is any truth to Voros' work with DIPS, and I think that there is, then we shouldn't expect a big turnaround by Cory Lidle in the second half, as many in the media have already written. The success Cory has been having in the second half of recent seasons isn't due to pitching more effectively by cutting down walks or increasing strikeouts (his k-rates actually get worse, although his HR rates have historically improved in the 2nd half). He's been giving up fewer hits, which is quite heavily affected by luck.

I don't have time to get into the detailed stats right now, I just want to capture the thought before I forget...don't bank on Cory becoming too much better than what he has shown so far in 2003. The question is, will JP be able to snowball GMs around the league into thinking that Lidle is a second half pitcher? I think yes. If Cory runs off 1 or 2 more good starts, his value will have peaked. He may be perceived as a saviour to some and he will be worth more to GMs around the league than to JP at that point. I think that he should be traded whether the Jays are in the hunt or not.
robertdudek - Monday, June 23 2003 @ 01:19 AM EDT (#99412) #
But Lidle's DIPS is a whole lot better than his ERA. His walks and homeruns allowed are low and his strikeout rate is quite good for an American League starting pitcher.

The reason his ERA is high is because the opposition has bunched their hits and walks against him. I think that about 90% of this is bad luck, with the other 10% being perhaps a weakness on Cory's part.

So, yes I agree that we shouldn't expect Lidle to pitch better; on the other hand, we should expect his ERA to go down.

It's only because so many people look at ERA that they think Lidle's pitched poorly. He hasn't.
robertdudek - Monday, June 23 2003 @ 12:56 PM EDT (#99413) #
Testing, testing.
robertdudek - Monday, June 23 2003 @ 11:39 PM EDT (#99414) #
I would like to add one more thing about Youkilis. If I'm right and his major league OPB does eventually fall in the .380 to .420 range, it might be worthwhile asking yourself the following question: how many teams in baseball have a leadoff hitter who puts up a .400 OBP? The answer is - zero.

When I was a youngster, we had Boggs, Rickey and Rock Raines in their primes. We haven't had anything close to that since.

So, yes, I'd rather have Youkilis in our system than Alexis Rios. Rios is a very good prospect who, if he develops according to the rosiest of projections, will become a young Shawn Green. If he does that then he'll probably be more valuable than Youkilis. But there's not a great chance of that happening - probably about 5% or less (the reason I say this is that we've seen many many very young outfielders with a similar skills set).

Youkilis just has to experience average development to become a .400 OBP man. This guy is a unique animal.
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