In a critical year that could alter his future with the Boston Red Sox, Will Middlebrooks has developed many aspects of his game throughout Spring Training, making him a force to be reckoned with during the 2014 season. During his 16 Spring Training games, Middlebrooks has hit .341 with a team-high four home runs and eight runs batted in. Middlebrooks has been able to hit to all parts of the field, increasing his offensive versatility, as well as his confidence at the plate.
Ever since his MLB debut in 2012, Middlebrooks, 25, has had some inconsistent seasons at third base. After hitting .288 with 15 home runs and 54 RBI in 2012, Middlebrooks struggled at the plate, hitting .227 with 17 home runs and 49 RBI. The unusual drop off in offensive numbers led Middlebrooks to be demoted to the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA), where he hit .268 with 10 home runs in 45 games. His renewed approach at the plate, as well as the trade of infielder Jose Iglesias to the Detroit Tigers, led Middlebrooks to regain his starting job at third base, demonstrating to Red Sox nation that he was not a one-year wonder.
Even after hitting well in the second half of the season, Middlebrooks’s job security was not guaranteed, as the emergence of Xander Bogaerts and the lingering possibility of resigning shortstop Stephen Drew hinted that Middlebrooks would be the odd man out in the Red Sox infield. However, Middlebrooks redeveloped his swing during the offseason, and his progress resulted in a more powerful stroke that intimidated Grapefruit League pitching in the spring. He has been able to hit for more power this spring, helping his cause as an offensive mainstay in the Red Sox lineup.
Spring Training statistics may not reflect the true performance of an individual during the regular season, but Middlebrooks has defied the doubts of many Red Sox fans, demonstrating changes that could make him a powerful force in the Red Sox lineup in 2014. Although he won’t start the season as one of the first five hitters in the lineup, Middlebrooks has the power and skill set to be one of the dominant third basemen in the American League. If Middlebrooks maintains his composure and offensive versatility in the regular season, expect him to become a formidable asset to a Red Sox lineup looking to win their second consecutive World Series championship.