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Boston Red Sox Need to Give Will Middlebrooks a Chance

January 2nd, 2014 at 10:30 AM
By Ron Juckett

'Will Middlebrooks' photo (c) 2013, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Will Middlebrooks has earned the right to play every day for the Boston Red Sox. He may not be headed for Cooperstown, but this 25-year-old needs to be given a serious shot of playing every day to show what he can do.

Over the course of two partial seasons, Middlebrooks has slugged 32 home runs and driven in 103 over 169 games. The Red Sox are looking for a power bat the last time we checked and…

Middlebrooks looks to be the odd man out in the triangle with super-prospect Xander Bogaerts and free agent Stephen Drew.

Bogaerts impressed general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell so much during the American League Championship Series last October that they started him over the struggling Middlebrooks at third during the World Series. Drew, and the draft pick attached to him if he signs with another team, is running out of options to play elsewhere and probably will re-sign with Boston, shifting Bogaerts from short to third.

If the above happens, Middlebrooks will be watching the games the same way we all do, sitting down. For someone who has that kind of potential power, he deserves better.

Yes, there are legitimate knocks against Middlebrooks.

His batting average dropped from .288 in the lost season of 2012 to .227 last year. In 348 at-bats in 2013, Middlebrooks struck out 98 times. His on-base percentage fell from .325 to .271 and he grounded into 13 double plays. Despite the ring, it was not a good year for Middlebrooks on the field.

Playing part of the year for Triple-A Pawtucket, however, tells a bit different of a story.

The power was there in 45 games as Middlebrooks struck 10 home runs. He found his hitting stroke as well as he batted .268 and raised his on-base percentage up to .327. Stellar numbers? No.

Middlebrooks is still developing as a player. Coming to the Red Sox as a fifth round pick out of Liberty Eylau High School out of Texarkana, Texas in the 2007 draft, Middlebrooks cracked 130 games a season for the first time of his career in 2013, splitting time between Boston and the PawSox.

You can look at his disappointing 2013 and see him as either talent that is never going to develop or someone that needs to have the confidence he can succeed.

At his age, he should not be wedged into a bench role as a sixth infielder and spot designated hitter for David Ortiz. If this is a confidence issue, having Middlebrooks watch his replacement in Bogaerts streak towards a Rookie of the Year award will not help.

In the long-term, the Red Sox do not need Stephen Drew. Bogaerts is a natural shortstop, not a third baseman and Boston acquired Jonathan Herrera from the Colorado Rockies, in the Franklin Morales deal, for added infield defensive depth.

Letting Middlebrooks rot on the bench is going to help no one. Starting the year at Pawtucket is not going to be what he wants to do, obviously, but at least he would get the chance to play every day.

The best option, though, is for him to be standing at third on Opening Day in Baltimore. If 2014 is about finding out what Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. can do, why not give Middlebrooks the same courtesy?

*All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.

Tags: Baseball, Ben Cherington, Boston, Boston Red Sox, John Farrell, MLB, Stephen Drew, Will Middlebrooks, Xander Bogaerts

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