Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The Greek God of Walks is moving on.
The second chapter of Kevin Youkilis' career will begin Monday night when he takes the field for the Chicago White Sox after spending his first eight-and-a-half seasons with the Boston Red Sox.
In Youkilis, the White Sox are getting a three-time All-Star who plays third base, a position Chicago has gotten virtually no production from all season.
But is a change of scenery enough to restore Youk to the form that made him one of the most coveted fantasy players in the game just a few short seasons ago?
Youkilis is having arguably the worst season of his career in 2012. His .233 batting average (which was even lower before a recent 6-for-14 hot streak) is well below his career average of .286 and his slugging (.377) and on-base percentages (.315) this year are also the lowest of his career.
Youkilis, 531st on the all-time major league home run list with 133 round- trippers, is homerless in his last 54 at-bats and is on pace to finish the year with a measly nine homers. That would be Youk's lowest home run total since 2005, when he had just 79 at-bats for the Red Sox.
His durability and plate discipline also have become question marks. Once considered one of the most patient hitters in the sport, Youkilis has already whiffed 39 times in 146 at-bats this season. That means he's striking out in almost 27 percent of his trips to the plate. In 2011, Youkilis struck out in only 20 percent of his at-bats.
The 33-year-old's aggressive style of play, though admirable, has clearly taken a toll on his body. Youkilis has already endured one DL stint in 2012, and since the start of the 2010 season he has missed 132 of the 396 games Boston has played in. The last time Youkilis played 140 games was in 2008 and he's never played more than 147 games in a season.
That's the bad news. The good news is that Youkilis will now be playing half of his games at U.S. Cellular Field. Though Youkilis hasn't been particularly effective in 77 at-bats there during his career (.234, 3 HR, 16 RBI in 20 games), the White Sox's home stadium is known as a hitter's park, especially for right-handed batters. Last season, the park yielded 32 percent more homers than the league average. Right-handers hit the ball out of U.S. Cellular Field at a 38 percent higher rate than the league average.
Youkilis is actually pretty fortunate to have ended up in Chicago, where he should see plenty of good pitches to hit with sluggers Adam Dunn (.215, 23 HR, 53 RBI), Paul Konerko (.342, 13 HR, 39 RBI) and Alex Rios (.291, 8 HR, 36 RBI) protecting him in the lineup.
It looks like Youkilis will be slotted at No. 2 in the batting order behind Alejandro De Aza (.293, 4 HR, 28 RBI) and ahead of Dunn. In the past, Youkilis has excelled in that spot in the lineup. Youk is a .295 career hitter in 400 at-bats out of the two-hole. Youkilis struggled to adjust to his role as Boston's No. 5 hitter this year: he hit only .177 out of that spot and over his career he's just a .235 hitter when batting fifth.
Besides having solid protection and a home ballpark that induces more home runs than just about any other stadium in the league, Youkilis also will have the benefit of going up against AL Central pitching on a regular basis. Of the five teams in the division, only the White Sox and Detroit Tigers have an ERA lower than four and the Cleveland Indians, Tigers, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals have each allowed their opponents to hit better than .260 against them this season.
Youkilis has had success against this division in the past, too. He's batting .290 or better against every team except the Royals and White Sox (who he won't have to face anyway), and overall he's a .280 hitter against the four AL Central teams he'll be playing against. Almost 22 percent of Youkilis' career homers have come versus the AL Central.
Those stats suggest that Youkilis could be in for a big second half, though fantasy owners should be warned that the former Red Sox star is a .300 hitter before July 1 and just a .269 career hitter after that date. The excitement of playing for a new team and a hunger to prove critics wrong also should work to Youkilis' advantage.
The Youkilis trade works for the Red Sox as well. Though neither Brent Lillibridge nor Zach Stewart are ready to make their mark in fantasy just yet (they both came over from the White Sox as compensation for Youkilis), the departure of Youkilis means that the Will Middlebrooks era in Boston has officially begun.
Middlebrooks (.326, 9 HR, 34 RBI in 41 games) is on a tear right now (10-for-16 with three homers and nine RBI over his last six games) and making a convincing case for AL Rookie of the Year. His .949 OPS would be the fifth-best in the AL if he had enough at-bats to qualify and his .583 slugging percentage would be good for fourth among qualified A.L. hitters.
With Youkilis gone, manager Bobby Valentine won't have to keep shuffling his lineup every day to try to get more at-bats for Youkilis, Middlebrooks and Adrian Gonzalez. Every hitter on the Red Sox should stand to benefit from a more stable lineup night in and night out.
Youkilis may not be an All-Star anymore, but he can still be useful in fantasy if he stays healthy. Middlebrooks should thrive now that he is an everyday player and he could be one of the first third baseman taken off the board in next year's fantasy draft. So it looks like the trade worked out for everybody ... perhaps your fantasy team as well.