Don’t worry Red Sox fans… Michael Young (hopefully) isn’t walking through that door. The third base situation has been in flux throughout the season, but the Sox have an in-house candidate who could solidify the spot going forward. Who is it? The same guy who started off the season at third: Will Middlebrooks.
The Red Sox decided he needed some time in the minors to get his head straight when Stephen Drew and Jose Iglesias were clearly the better options. The idea was to get Middlebrooks regular playing time to work on his approach and consistency and allow him to have some success at the plate. It’s worked to some degree, with Middlebrooks showing good power clubbing seven home runs so far.
Michael Young has put up an empty .288/.344/.414 line showing poor on base skills and little power. He’s just not that good a player anymore, despite his reputation as a great clubhouse guy. Middlebrooks offers more power and better defense at third base.
We shouldn’t expect the same 2012 numbers for Middlebrooks, where his BABIP was over .330, but a middle ground between those numbers and his putrid start to this season doesn’t seem unreasonable. Even while scuffling this year, he still hit for power. That pop could still help the Sox this year, and it’s something Young doesn’t provide.
Once Stephen Drew comes back from the disabled list, my favorite option would be to bring Middlebrooks back up and have the three left side of the field players (Drew, Iglesias, Middlebrooks) share the starts. If the Sox play seven games in a week, that’s 14 starts to split up. Drew is the ideal candidate to sit versus lefty starters, with Iglesias at short and Middlebrooks at third.
Iglesias goes back to his best role in my mind, a super utility guy who can play excellent defense at short, third, and even second. If he doesn’t start, he’s available for pinch hitting, pinch running or as a defensive replacement.
This also allows the Sox to mitigate the coming regression in Iglesias’ stats. My fellow FireBrand writers and I have been trying to gently break this news… he’s not going to hit like this forever. The sky high batting average on balls in play will slowly come down, as will his batting average. It already began to show up a bit on the West Coast road swing, as Iglesias went 8 for 39 on the road trip.
With uberprospect Xander Bogaerts closer every day, Iglesias won’t be the starting shortstop going forward. Middlebrooks and Garin Cecchini are better options at third. So Iglesias will likely either end up at that utility position anyway, or as a valuable trade chip in the offseason.
I still believe in Will Middlebrooks. Throughout his career in the minors, he made adjustments at each level to continue to improve. I think he’ll do the same thing again, and prove to be a valuable third baseman for the Red Sox for the remainder of the year.