Friday, February 15, 2008

2008 Preview: First Basemen

Name: Kevin Edmund Youkilis
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Age: 28
2008 salary: $3M
Fun Fact: Wikipedia says, "Youkilis had one line in the 1994 romantic comedy Milk Money" which was shot in Cincinnati and starred Melanie Griffith as a hooker with a heart of gold."

In his second season as the Red Sox full-time first baseman, Kevin Youkilis earned a World Series ring, a Gold Glove*, and the distinction of having the most potent sweat glands in Boston since Hall of Fame shoo-in Patrick Ewing was soaking the floorboards at Cambridge Rindge and Latin. Perhaps it is those overactive sweat glands that are to blame for Youk's severe post-all star break drop-off. His average dipped from .328 in the first half to .238 in the second half and his OPS fell from .921 to .747. While his drop in home runs and RBI was not nearly so pronounced, Youk's strike outs shot up from 40 in 293 ABs in the first half of the season to 65 in 235 ABs in the second half. Recognizing that he wore down in the dog days of summer, this off season Youkilis joined fellow Red Sox Dustin Pedroia, Manny Ramirez and Kyle Snyder at Athletes Performance, a state-of-the-art training facility in Arizona. He arrives at spring training a very bad man, and $3 million richer.

Youkilis offers versatility in the field. He's able to spell Mike Lowell at third base and can play a bit of left field in a pinch. As made famous in Moneyball, he is a master of working the count and drawing walks. His approach at the plate seems to have gotten under the skin of the Yankees, who dislike him and have made a practice of throwing baseballs aimed at his body. And sometimes his head. Frankly, I can see why he might rub the opposition the wrong way. Something in the way he carries himself. I suppose in this respect (and I mean this in the kindest way possible) he's the Red Sox version of Jorge Posada. The Yankee hate makes my appreciation for him all the more resolute.

*Youkilis was the Gold Glove winner on the strength of an absurd errorless games streak. I know I'm partial to unnecessary theatrics when I say that I consider his two finest moments in the field to be his flawless handlings of Julian Tavarez's lawn bowling escapade.

Kevin Youkilis's 2008 ZiPS projection:
.286 AVG/.388 OBP/.444 SLG
79 Runs
136 Hits
35 Doubles
12 Home Runs
69 RBI
71 BB
100 K

Name: Sean Thomas Casey
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Age: 33
2008 salary: $700,000
Fun Fact: Sean Casey is the Mayor of Casterbridge.

Sean Casey is destined to be a fan favorite. White, slow, affable, and rarely utilized are a killer combo. There's a reason he brings with him a moniker like "The Mayor." As long as we're on the subject of his nickname, I'd like to state that we need a NESN ad featuring Casey and Tom Menino and we need it now.*

In a former life Casey was a three-time all star with the Reds who had enough pop to get more than twenty balls out of the yard in multiple seasons but he is now on his last legs. And frankly, how could he run fast anyway when he's got babies to kiss and old ladies to hug? A career .301 hitter... with a career .366 OBP, last season Casey slugged a timid .393. A nice pinch hit option if you're hoping for a single, Casey is a a left handed batter who has hit .326 against left handed pitching over the past three seasons. While certainly a better fielding first baseman than Eric Hinske, and a more reliable hitter, the Sox do lose some versatility on their bench by replacing a man who can play multiple positions with a aged first baseman. Casey says it is a dream to play for the Sox and there's no doubt he'll bring a great attitude and be well liked in the clubhouse. Welcome to Boston, Sean Casey.

*I don't have NESN on my cable package, please tell me such an ad already exists.

Sean Casey
's 2008 ZiPS projection:
.283 AVG/.346 OBP/.388 SLG
46 Runs
116 Hits
25 Doubles
6 Home Runs
55 RBI
34 BB
48 K

Other first base options:
Carlos Peña: That's his name, right? That local kid who the Sox picked up off waivers a couple of years back. He's still somewhere in the system, right? Was it Portland last year? Anyway, I always liked him. Nice stroke from the left side.

Carlos Quintana: Laugh if you must, but Carlos is now fully recovered from the automobile accident that had him on the shelf for, oh, 14 seasons. He's back and in the best shape of his life. Why, just last week he won
the WBO welterweight crown.

David Ortiz: A solid option at first base during World Series play.

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