Examining expectations for Will Middlebrooks


After bursting onto the scene in 2012, Will Middlebrooks has disappointed. The third baseman  has yet to play a full season in the big leagues and owns a career .237 average with a mediocre .284 OBP. His rookie campaign – 2012 – was his most impressive, as the Texan put up a .288 average with 15 HR and 54 RBI before taking an Esmil Rodgers heater to the forearm, ending his season in mid-August.

The Red Sox seemed willing to hand the 24-year old the third base job full time in 2013, but he struggled out of the gate and was shipped to Triple-A Pawtucket, spending 45 games with the PawSox before being recalled to Boston in late summer. His struggles, combined with the emergence of Xander Bogaerts, caused a defensive alignment shift by the Red Sox for the stretch run. Stephen Drew manned shortstop while Bogaerts, who rose through the minor league system as a shortstop, moved over to third base. Middlebrooks did not play everyday as the Red Sox made their playoff push, and appeared in only 10 of the Red Sox postseason contests.

Middlebrooks arrived at Spring Training last February noticeably bigger, putting on some muscle in an effort to build strength enabling him to stay healthy through the grind of a full major league season, but again struggled out of the gate. Again Middlebrooks was shipped to Pawtucket midseason and hit at a dismal clip, a .189 average with 2 HR and 19 RBI. The Red Sox, like their third baseman, did not live up to expectations in 2014 leading to a roster turnover, one that greatly impacted the course of Middlebrooks’ career.

More from MLB News

In early December, the Boston Red Sox signed free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval to a five year deal. This signing signaled that the Red Sox had given up on Middlebrooks as the everyday third basemen. Industry executives speculated that the Red Sox could try Middlebrooks at first base or keep him at third in the minors and attempt to reestablish his value, but instead Boston sold low on the infielder, dealing him to San Diego for catcher Ryan Hanigan.

So with Middlebrooks donning a new uniform in 2015, what can baseball fans expect from him? The third baseman has reached the 15-HR mark in 2012 and 2013, so he has shown the ability to hit the long ball, although his career .237 average leads skeptics to think that Middlebrooks will never put up an exceptional average. Middlebrooks is an above average defender, though there are questions about his range, and projects to be the Padres’ Opening Day third basemen.

If he can stay healthy, Middlebrooks should crack the 20 home run mark and knock in a fair share of runs in a new-look offense that boasts Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, and Justin Upton. If the injury bug bites Middlebrooks again, it could be a long year for him on the West Coast. Maybe a change of scenery will bode well from Middlebrooks, but his health should be the tell-tale sign in his effectiveness in 2015 and beyond.

Next: Orioles still have questions to address