Continuing our series profiling former Lowell Spinners on the Red Sox Spring Training roster, we turn today to Boston first baseman Kevin Youkilis.
Kevin Youkilis – 2001 Spinners stats: .317 BA, 3 HR, 28 RBI, 28 SO, 70 BB in 183 AB
“Youk” came to Lowell after being drafted in the 8th round of the 2001 Amateur Draft following an absolute beast of a senior year at the University of Cincinnati: .405 batting average, 18 home runs, and more than two times as many walks (59) as strikeouts (21).
Immediately out of the gate with the Spinners, Youkilis gave the Red Sox just what they expected, batting .317 with an astounding 70 walks and only 28 strikeouts. His adjustment to wood bats was seamless, as he showed decent pop with 19 extra-base hits and led the NYPL with a .512 on-base percentage — a Spinners record that still stands today — en route to Lowell’s Player of the Year honors.
With the Spinners, Youkilis gained two new identities: the “Youk” chant was started by the LeLacheur Park faithful, and his 70 walks — which still stand as a Spinners record — begot his nickname as “The Greek God of Walks.”
As the Spinners season wound to a close, Kevin was promoted to Low-A Augusta, where he would spend his first 15 games of 2002. He made three stops in 2002, eventually spending a solid chunk of the season (44 games) batting .349 with a .462 on-base percentage at Double-A Trenton.
His 2003 season began at the Red Sox new Double-A affiliate in Portland, where he continued to hit well over .300 and got on base at a ridiculous clip. But after a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket, Kevin fell on hard times for the first time in his professional career. Although he tied then-Red Sox Kevin Millar’s Minor League record for consecutive games reached base at 71, Kevin only hit .165 in 32 games with the PawSox.
Nevertheless, Youkilis was the Red Sox top hitting prospect and he split time between Pawtucket and the World Champion Red Sox in 2004. He even blasted a homerun in his first Major League at-bat on May 15 at Toronto. Spinners fans should remember that injuries slowed him down a bit, and he became the first former Spinner to return to LeLacheur Park as a Major League rehabber on August 30 and 31 (he went 3-for-4 with two extra-base hits).
“Youk” again split time between Triple-A and the Majors in 2005, but he established himself as a Major League hitter, batting .278 and retaining his nickname with an elite .400 on-base percentage in 79 at-bats.
Last season was Kevin’s first full season in the Majors, and despite a shift to first base, his solid season included 13 home runs and 100 runs scored as the Red Sox lead-off replacement for the injured Coco Crisp. The “Greek God of Walks” will be the Red Sox primary first baseman in 2007.