This if the fifth installment of the never ending battle between the Red Sox and Yankees. Today, we are going to take a look at the hot corner. Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez vs. Kevin Edmund Youkilis. Both players have dealt with injuries over the last two seasons. Rodriguez dealt with hip injuries while Youkilis lost his season to a torn thumb muscle. With both players looking to bounce back, who will have the better 2011 season?

Third Base:

Red Sox: Kevin Youkilis (2010: .307, 19 HRs, 62 RBIs, 102 games)
Yankees: Alex Rodriguez ( .270, 30 HRs, 125 RBIs, 137 games)

There’s no denying that Kevin Youkilis epitomizes the word ‘team player’. Youk, a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove award winner at first base, agreed to move to third base in order for the Red Sox to acquire Adrian Gonzalez. There were even some reports out of Boston that Youk was willing to move to left field so the team could resign Adrian Beltre. That Carl Crawford guy basically screwed that one up, but hey, it happens. The point is that Youk checks his ego at the door before he steps foot on the field.

Known for being a fierce competitor, Youkilis regularly finish in the Top 10 players in term of on-base and slugging percentage. Add in his career .994 fielding percentage and the guy is just a complete package. The 32-year-old just grinds out at-bats and is truly a headache for any starting pitcher or Yankee fan. The guy is just a gamer and should have no difficulty adopting to his full-time role at third base.

Bill James Projection: 152 games, .294 BA, .398 OBP, .507 SLG, 25 HRs, 95 RBIs.

There’s no denying that Alex Rodriguez is one of the best hitters in baseball history. However, the 35-year-old had arguably his worst season to date in 2010. Rodriguez’s .270 batting average and .341 on-base percentage were the lowest marks of his career. Rodriguez did reach the magical ’30 home run’ plateau for the 13th year in a row, but that is simply just a small nugget in A-Rod’s overall disappointing 2010.

There’s no denying that A-Rod hip injuries have slowed down his production. Once a legitimate stolen base threat, Rodriguez has watched his stolen base output fall from 18 to 14 to 4 over the last three seasons. While we solely can’t blame injuries for his lackluster 2010, Rodriguez has watched his walk total fall from 80 in 2009 to 59 in 2010. Add in the fact that A-Rod had 60 more plate appearances in 2010 and you’ll notice a lack of plate discipline. Defensively, A-Rod has been ranked right around the league average. He committed only seven errors in 2010, but has failed to give the Yankees more than 131 games at third base for the last three seasons. Is this a sign of things to come?

Bill James Projection: 144 games, .284 BA, .381 OBP, .530 SLG, 35 HRs, 116 RBIs

Conclusion:

Edge: Red Sox

Call me crazy, but I like Youk more than A-Rod heading into the 2011 season. At this stage in their respective careers, Youk has far less downside than A-Rod does. Add in the fact that Youk isn’t saddled with the burden of living up to a $275 million contract while the media chronicles his every move. Youk is easily a better defender than A-Rod and is an OBP machine. I hate watching Youk grind out at-bats, but hey, that’s why Sox fans love the guy so much. With Gonzalez and Crawford hitting in front of him, Youk will have plenty of RBI opportunities. With A-Rod, the questions are just too plentiful and I don’t trust that hip. He could come out and post a 40-homer, 140 RBI campaign and none of us would be surprised. But it’s more than reasonable to assume that those days are well behind A-Rod.

Yankees 4
Red Sox 1

Who would you rather have for the 2011 season?

Check back tomorrow as we begin our journey through the outfield.