The photo above was one of the scariest moments of the Boston Red Sox 2013 season. Game three of last year’s World Series had both the Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals tied at one game a piece. With runners on second and third, a grounder was hit to Dustin Pedroia, who made a great play and threw out the runner going to the plate. Jarrod Saltalamacchia tagged the runner and made a strong throw to third, where Will Middlebrooks dove (or fell) and the ball got past him. As the runner headed home, Middlebrooks obstructed his path and the runner was awarded home, and ultimately the game.
It was at this point that I not only worried about the series, but also Middlebrooks ability to play in October. Here is our preview of Middlebrooks and the third base position for the upcoming season.
Having Will Middlebrooks as the Red Sox starting third basemen scares me. At times he displays incredible power but up until now hasn’t been able to hit for a consistent average. I believe he becomes so obsessed with hitting home runs that his swing becomes too big, missing potential hits. He must improve his hitting vision, meaning he needs to swing at strikes and take balls. He must learn that there is nothing wrong with a single, a double or even a walk. Hitting .227 for an average isn’t going to enamor you with anyone.
Defensively he needs to improve. Will had 10 errors in 92 games last season with limited range because he appears to lack the natural instincts to “read and react” to balls hit to his side.
I bought a Middlebrooks t-shirt way too soon. Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy’s skill-set and his ability to hit for power. He is the type of hitter the Red Sox would have overpaid for back in the day. But me and my colleagues in New York talk about him and New York Mets first basement Ike Davis as being eerily similar.
Middlebrooks needs to cut down on his strikeouts, because at Fenway Park he can easily hit 20 home runs with another 25 doubles by accident. His pitch recognition, or inability to recognize pitches, is his downfall. He likes to swing at fastballs out of the zone and once he is down in the count, all bets are off on whether or not he swings. This is a big year for Will “The Thrill” Middlebrooks as the Sox immediate depth at third isn’t great. In fact, the depth is so poor that Mike Carp has been taking reps at third base so far this spring.
Either way, a lot will hinge on Middlebrooks plate discipline and his ability work deeper into count. If Stephen Drew resigns, I would not be surprised to see Middlebrooks sit more than Xander Bogaerts and Drew.