Not long ago, Will Middlebrooks was viewed as one of the very best young players on the Boston Red Sox’ roster.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
After a slew of injuries this season, most recently a broken right index finger, Will Middlebrooks has barely seen the field — just 71 at-bats in 21 games.
Even when he gets healthy, the signing of Stephen Drew and transition of Xander Bogaerts from shortstop to third base could prove to be enough of a blockade to keep him at the AAA level for the foreseeable future.
So, in reality, who knows if we’ll ever see Middlebrooks back with Boston again this season.
That begs a couple of impending questions: is now the time to trade him? How much value does he hold at this point? Does he fit into the Red Sox’ future plans?
Lucky for all of you, I am here to answer everything.
Back in 2012, the young third baseman that we are discussing now was called up to Boston and immediately made his presence felt. In 267 at-bats, Middlebrooks raked to a slash of .288/.325/.509 with 15 homers and 54 RBI’s during his rookie season. He was a big framed right-handed hitting corner infielder with A LOT of power. The potential was very real.
Last season didn’t produce the same results. As pitchers adjusted, Middlebrooks did not and his numbers suffered.
His average plummeted 61 points, all the way down to .227, leaving his power as his only weapon. His strikeout percentage was on the rise (24.5 percent his rookie year to 26.2 percent in 2013) which didn’t help things, and so Middlebrooks, who showed off such a balanced game just a year earlier, became a boom or bust (K or HR) type of player.
Injuries held Middlebrooks to 94 games that year, and now, have completely derailed any hopes of a comeback season for 2014 as well.
All this brings me back to my first question of is it time to trade him?
The answer: absolutely not.
Middlebrooks, 25, has totaled just 686 career at-bats over three years. That translates into a little more than a full season’s worth of plate appearances.
If you viewed his numbers to date as if they were one season, Middlebrooks would have hit .248 with 34 homers, 112 RBI’s and 191 K’s. Those are stats any team would certainly take from the third base position.
His 30-plus home run power potential is invaluable in a league dominated by pitching and lacking runs, meaning he will always have some sort of value to the market, regardless of his recent struggles. But you never, under any circumstances, want to trade a player when his value is at the lowest point. And that’s where Middlebrooks is right now.
Does Boston plan on keeping him around? If they follow that cardinal rule and don’t move Middlebrooks while his value is lowest, my answer would be yes. There have been rumors that the Sox are keeping him around as a major piece in a potential Giancarlo Stanton trade, but I’m not buying that idea quite yet. The Sox will certainly have the most to offer the Miami Marlins if that time comes, but I highly doubt Stanton is moved at the deadline.
The best thing for Will Middlebrooks to do right now is to get healthy, stay on the field and continue to date Jenny Dell. Everything beyond that is out of his control.
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