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2012 Fantasy Baseball Breakdown: Will Middlebrooks
There is a second perfect storm scenario brewing in the Boston area. You will remember the first perfect storm as the weather pattern that produced the giant wave that killed George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. Where Clooney was all “I'm greedy for extra fish, lets keep going.” Then the ocean was like “I'll show you Posiedon's fury.” Then Wahlberg was all “hey wave, say hi to your mother for me, gurgle, gurgle, sputter, choke, drown.”
The new perfect storm is building from a combination of factors in the Boston area. First, the Red Sox have not started the season well, sputtering to last in the AL East. Second, incumbent third baseman Kevin Youkilis is hitting badly and has already drawn the ire of new manager Bobby Valentine, who claimed Youkilis' head wasn't in the game. Third and most germane to this discussion, Red Sox prospect Will Middlebrooks is absolutely killing the ball in AAA.
It's a small sample size, only 84 at bats, but in that time Middlebrooks has hit .377/.429/.792 with 9 HR, 18 R, 27 RBI. He's got a .542 wOBA and a 243 wRC+. Middlebrooks came into the season as Baseball America's top Red Sox prospect and has outperformed even those lofty expectations.
Baseball America even recently gushed about Middlebrooks, saying: “Middlebrooks' early hot streak comes with no caveats. He's hitting nearly equally well against lefthanders and righthanders, and home/road splits are close to identical as well.” Heading into the 2012 season, soxprospects.com had Middlebrooks development goals as: “needs work with his pitch selection to produce consistent contact at the major league level. He is willing to take pitches, but at times gets too zealous in hitter’s counts or needlessly expands his strike zone.” He's developing. Middlebrooks is currently sporting the highest BB% of his career at 8.3% and lowest KK% at 15.5%. The most exciting thing about the 2012 Boston Red Sox season, through April, is the slugging third baseman in AAA.
It's doubtful the Red Sox will bring up Middlebrooks, unless Youkilis' struggles stretch well into the summer. Youkilis has earned too much rope over his career and the organization has seen first hand with David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, the payoff of sticking with struggling players. Youkilis has played some left field at Fenway, so it's possible that the Sox could get creative, considering the injury issues of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford and move him to the outfield to create room for Middlebrooks. Or perhaps a fed up Youkilis ends up pulling a Sprewell on Valentine. Realistically, any chance of a call-up would require this type of hitting over a much larger sample size for the AAA third baseman.
Currently you're only adding Middlebrooks in keeper or deep AL-only leagues. Keep an eye on him though, watching for continued otherworldly hitting. If he can sustain the success he's had over 84 at-bats for an extended period, Middlebrooks will force the Red Sox hand.
Written by Ryan Coombs exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com. Follow Ryan on Twitter @RMCoombs.
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