There may not be a player in the MLB that regressed more from 2012 to 2013 than Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks. The 2013 season got so bad for the 25-year-old third baseman that the Red Sox had to send him down to Triple-A for 45 games. Middlebrooks has never really showed an ability to work the count and draw walks at the MLB level, so his value depends mostly on his ability to hit for power.
In 2012, Middlebrooks hit .288/.325/.509 with a 122 wRC+ in just 286 plate appearances. His peripherals weren’t good at all. In fact, they were terrible. He walked in just 4.5 percent of his plate appearances while striking out in 24.5 percent. Despite his good 2012 season, Middlebrooks wouldn’t carry his success into 2013. Last season, Middlebrooks appeared in just 94 games with the Red Sox, hitting for a .227/.271/.425 triple-slash line with a 83 wRC+.
To try and figure out the exact reason for Middlebrook’s terrible 2013 season would be impossible. However, there are some legitimate factors that could explain some of his struggles. He struck out in 26.2 percent of his plate appearances and walked in just 5.3 percent. Even when he wasn’t striking out, he either wasn’t getting solid contact or he was hitting line drives right at fielders, as shown by his very poor .263 batting average on balls in play.
Another reason for his poor play, other than bad luck, could be his injuries. He suffered a back injury in 2013 as well as a few other nagging injuries that could have hindered his ability to hit. Hitting with a bad back obviously wouldn’t be easy, even for a player with Middlebrooks’ talent.
For the Red Sox, the reason behind their third baseman’s struggles doesn’t matter. They need to see results in 2014 or he will likely be finding a new home for 2015. They have a few players in the minor leagues that could soon step in to replace Middlebrooks if need be, most notably Brock Holt and Deven Marrero.