When Will Middlebrooks came up in 2012 I was an enthusiastic promoter, willing to displace Kevin Youkilis for the next Red Sox power third baseman. He killed the ball for a month, got injured, and hasn’t been the same since then.
No one wants to see a career undermined by injury, but I think the Red Sox have given Middlebrooks ample chances to prove he can hit again. He can’t. He works the count better than he used to, but the result is the same, strike outs, weak fly balls, ground into double plays. He can’t even hold up the eighth position in the batting order.
The thing is, you reserve the lower third of the order for the good-field-no-hit guys, the catcher, the center fielder, sometimes the shortstop. The Red Sox have good young prospects at all those positions. So I smile when Jackie Bradley, Jr. strikes out four times in a game, because he steals 2-3 hits per game in center field. I nod when Dan Butler or Christian Vasquez have an oh-fer day, because I know they are protecting the base paths from reckless base runners. Xander Bogaerts, he’s only 21 and the official can’t-miss guy in the organization.
Middlebrooks? He’s the third out at the bottom of the order, who can easily be replaced by Brock Holt. His swing is sapped. His sun has set. He embarrasses himself every time he comes to the plate. In a faltering line-up, he is the one guy I do not expect to get his swing back and carry the team again. He is capable in the field, but no more so than three guys in the Red Sox organization who can hit better.
Brock Holt, Mookie Betts, and Garin Cecchini could be filling this position. They all look like they have a future with the Red Sox. Will Middlebrooks does not.
Sorry, Will. I defended your honor for two years. Now you are the Youkilis of 2014.