(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)
Despite being the most significant non-returning player signing of the offseason, the Yankees didn't bring Kevin Youkilis in with high expectations. His eroding offensive skills and 1-year deal pointed to him being nothing more than a plug-in at third base, a regressing, broken down former All Star brought in to temporarily replace the regressing, broken down former All Star the Yankees already had at third in A-Rod. As the everyday third baseman for the first half of the season, the Yanks would probably hit Youkilis 6th or 7th against right-handed pitchers, 2nd against lefties, and through a combination of walks and the occasional HR here and there get enough production out of him to help keep the offense going until A-Rod returned in July.
That plan quickly fell apart with the injuries to Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira, and got thrown further out of whack with the recovery setback to Derek Jeter's ankle. Youkilis now finds himself as the #1 right-handed bat in the lineup and arguably the second-biggest power/run-producing threat in the middle of the Yankee batting order. For at least the first month of the regular season, the Yankees are no longer looking at Youkilis as a cog on the offensive wheel; they need him to be one of the pedalers that keeps the wheel moving. Youkilis had a very good and surprisingly powerful Spring Training. How well he manages to keep that performance up on an everyday basis could be a major determining factor in the Yankees' ability to keep the ship afloat while their walking wounded recover.
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