The Boston Red Sox had big expectations for Will Middlebrooks after a hot 2012 season, and unfortunately for many he was a bit of a let down in the 2013 season. Although his power was there, he just could not make contact consistently enough and was sent to Pawtucket in the middle of the season.
At the time Middlebrooks was sent down, his OBP was .228, the lowest of all qualifying MLB players. When Middlebrooks came back up, he looked a whole lot better walking more and striking out less going from nine walks and 60 strikeouts in 203 at-bats before being sent down to 11 walks and just 38 strikeouts in 145 at-bats after being called up. Not to mention his OBP spiked up 101 points.
Back in 2012 Middlebrooks got his call when Kevin Youkilis went to the disabled list and what a year Will Middlebrooks. He batted .288 with a respectable but not great .325 OBP and a ton of power with 15 homeruns in just 267 at-bats. His defense on the other hand was just as subpar as it was in 2013, fielding at .949 which was below the league average.
With this being said and despite his solid rookie season, people expecting big things out of Will Middlebrooks in 2013 were highly unreasonable because of how free swinging he was and still is, so once he hit that slump early in the 2013 season he had trouble recovering. Therefore, the biggest problem Will Middlebrooks has had throughout his career has been plate discipline. In 179 career regular season and post season games, Middlebrooks has struck out 178 times meaning he is basically guaranteed a strikeout every game he plays but with just 36 career walks in the same amount of time, odds are he'll draw a walk once every two series.
In 2014 for Middlebrooks, do not expect him to be along the lines of a Kevin Youkilis. People thought he was more talented than Youkilis in 2012, when in reality they are nothing like each other as players. It is safe to assume based upon how the roster looks right now Middlebrooks could easily see 500 at-bats during the season. If this is true Middlebrooks should display some serious power. I would expect somewhere along the lines of 25-30 homeruns, a few will be game changing, and at least 30 doubles. Both of these together could lead to high RBI totals for Middlebrooks, depending on where he is batting in the lineup.
For batting average for Middlebrooks, I will be optimistic and say he can only get better than last year and put him at around the .250 mark with an OBP around .310. Now I am saying his OBP will be 60 points higher than his batting average but I do not believe Middlebrooks will cut his strikeouts down a significant amount more. My prediction is that he will just become more selective at the plate.
Defensively, don't expect Brooks Robinson playing third base, but Middlebrooks is older now and might finally become a league average third baseman defensively. With Bogaerts at shortstop, that would be huge for the team because Bogaerts is not quite a gold glover himself either.
Overall, Will Middlebrooks should have no problem keeping down his third base spot throughout the season, and although he does not have the world's greatest OBP his teammates can pick up the slack where he struggles. His power will be a major asset to Boston's already power-filled lineup and with Will in the lineup pulling his own weight, this should be a great 2014 Red Sox lineup.
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