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Red Sox Report: Ryan Roberts Signs, Is Middlebrooks Injury Serious?

Week 1 is in the books for the Red Sox, and they would love to forget about this past weekend when the Brewers were in town. Not only did the Red Sox struggle this week, but already they’ve been hit with an early season injury bug.

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The injuries have prompted Boston to sign another veteran infielder. On Monday they signed Ryan Roberts who played for the Tampa Bay Rays the last 2 seasons. The move seems very questionable because it’s A.) a major league deal, and B.) it’s a mediocre player at best.

On Saturday, Will Middlebrroks was a late scratch against the Brewers, and had an MRI. He was placed on the 15 day DL as well, and the Jonathan Herrera started the rest of the weekend. It was called a minor strain, and it seemed as though the 2 weeks would be plenty of time for Middlebrooks to heal and be ready to go. With the Roberts acquisition, that makes it seem as though the injury may not be as mild as the team suggested.

The team called up Brock Holt as soon as Middlebrooks was placed on the DL, and it’s very peculiar that they would even consider Roberts because he hit only .247 last season, when Holt hit .203 in a very short span in Boston. If the Middlebrooks injury isn’t severe, the only other reason for brining a veteran onboard on a MAJOR league deal is that they have little faith in their utility infielder, Jonathan Herrera.

Herrera is 2 for 8 on the season, and if they didn’t have faith in him, why would they put him on the big league roster after Spring Training? Maybe the Red Sox do have a plan for Roberts even with a healthy Middlebrooks and Herrera, but things seem a tad strange from the Fenway front office as of now.

Love the Glove: Red Sox Infield

Teams in large markets (like Boston) tend to feature at least several players who can swing the bat, and don’t always place a high premium on run prevention. Despite their impressive stable of young pitching, the Red Sox will never be confused for a pitching-and-defense type of team. However, run prevention played just as much a role in the Red Sox’ 2013 World Series run as their league-leading offense. The Red Sox are strongest in the infield, where they feature multiple players who can seriously flash the leather.

Napoli and his beard are rock-solid at first

If there is any weakness in the Red Sox infield defense, it is at the corners. While the eye test generally yields positive reviews (last year’s controversial World Series ending notwithstanding), Will Middlebrooks does not feature impressive defensive numbers over his career at third base: -11 Defensive Runs Saved, -3.1 Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games played. Middlebrooks takes pride in his defense and puts in a lot of work to make himself better, so an optimistic evaluator could see him improve to at least a statistically average third baseman this season. The same could not really be said for Mike Napoli. Despite a reputation as a defensive liability, Napoli was great under the guidance of third base coach and infield instructor Brian Butterfield with the Red Sox in 2013. Napoli (and his beard) earned very impressive 10 DRS and 13.3 UZR/150 for his work at first base. Napoli has turned himself into at the very least a good defensive first baseman, and probably should have gotten more serious Gold Glove consideration.

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Red Sox Report: 3 Players That Will Be Important For A Trip To October

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The Red Sox announced the expected this afternoon with Grady Sizemore being named to the Opening Day roster and Jackie Bradley being sent to AAA Pawtucket. When Jacoby Ellsbury left for the Yankees this winter it was expected that Bradley was going to man centerfield. Sizemore was brought it on a now risk contract, with no one really knowing if he would make any impact at all. This spring he has showed maybe he can still be part of what he once was, after missing over two years.

Craig Breslow and Steven Wright were placed on the disabled list last night after both did not appear in a game this spring. Wright had sports hernia surgery and will likely be out until May. Wright, was not expected to make the roster but would provide depth in the AAA rotation that will feature the likes of Matt Barnes and Allen Webster. Breslow, appeared in a minor league game this week and like last spring will start the year on the disabled list. The workload of last season has forced the Sox to be careful with Breslow this spring and will likely not be out too long. He can come off the disabled list April 5th at the earliest, meaning he could only miss four games to start the year.

Last season the Red Sox got contributions from the most unlikely of characters. Daniel Nava was an on base machine. Koji Uehara was nearly untouchable during the second half and the run to the World Series. John Lackey was a pleasant surprise and was more of the pitcher during his days with the Angels, after missing the entire 2012 season. This year those three will likely not perform as well as last season, but anything close to last season and this team will be in it in October. What players will need to perform at a high level for the Red Sox to succeed this season? I have three players to expect to step up this season and pick up their games.

Will Middlebrooks

Middlebrooks is an interesting case as he burst onto the scene during the horrible 2012 season and was really the only bright spot that year. Last season he was given the third base job from the start and besides a three homer game early in the season brought not much to the table. He started the season hitting fifth and was quickly moved down as far as ninth in the lineup. The Sox had Jose Iglesias grasp third base and then replaced Middlebrooks at third with Middlebrooks being sent down to Pawtucket. Middlebrooks came back up after Iglesias was traded to the Tigers and looked better in the second half but then was replaced by another shortstop learning third, Xander Bogaerts.

Will Middlebrooks is in a make or break year.

Will Middlebrooks is in a make or break year.

Middlebrooks came to Spring Training looking like a man on a mission, looking stronger and seeming like he did not want to lose his job again this year. The Sox did not resign Stephen Drew which I feel is a testament to how they believe in Middlebrooks. Third base depth in the organization is relatively small besides Garin Cecchini, who will start the year in Pawtucket. Middlebrooks will probably hit eighth or ninth in the Red Sox lineup to start the year with the hope he will move up to as high as fifth behind Napoli. No question he has power and has worked on his defense, but cutting down on the strikeouts and being able to go the other way should be a main focus this season. He is in a make or break year and I expect him to prove his worth.

Jake Peavy

Peavy came over from the White Sox in a late July trade and provided the Sox with rotation depth with Clay Buchholz on the shelf. Thankfully for the Sox he wasn’t just a rental and had another year left on his contract. With Ryan Dempster sitting out the year Peavy got his spot in the rotation guaranteed as one of those two likely would have been dealt as they were battling for the fifth spot in the rotation. After a few so-so years with the White Sox where he suffered from an array of injuries, Peavy has said this spring that he is as healthy as he was in his San Diego days where he won a Cy Young Award.

Jake Peavy brings the bulldog mentality the Sox rotation needs.

Jake Peavy brings the bulldog mentality the Sox rotation needs.

I expect Peavy to be a key cog in the Sox rotation, and provide the Sox with what John Lackey provided last season. A healthy Peavy, who is still just 32 years old, will put less pressure on Clay Buchholz as Sox fans cannot expect him to make 30 starts in a season. Peavy does not have to be Cy Young material but the Sox won last year because of their rotation depth and Peavy was part of the reason.

Edward Mujica

Koji Uehara was the Sox fourth closer last season. Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey were both out for the season by May, and Junichi Tazawa did not take on the role like the team wished. Uehara worked an unprecedented pace and mowed down hitters through July and August. The workload continued into October where he was counted on to get some four and five out saves and did so. Mujica, was the Cardinals closer for most of the last season until late in the season where he wore down and was rarely used in the postseason. The Sox signed him to a two year deal this offseason, addressing a need in the bullpen, as depth is something every team needs going into the season.

Edward Mujica will likely get many save opportunities this season.

Edward Mujica will likely get many save opportunities this season.

Mujica will likely be the arm John Farrell uses in the ninth inning when Uehara needs a day off. Look for Mujica to get a lot of save opportunities in April and May as the Sox try to keep Uehara fresh for opportunities late in the season. Mujica might not have the strikeouts that Uehara has but he did have 37 saves last year in 41 opportunities. In order for Uehara to be successful I feel Mujica will have to a key cog in the Sox bullpen. Andrew Miller and Junichi Tazawa will also be counted on but we know what they are capable of, Mujica will need to burst onto the scene and Sox fans will embrace him like Koji’s high fives.

Middlebrooks, Peavy, and Mujica will all be counted on this season but I feel they can all perform better than anticipated. Nava, Uehara and Lackey were not expected to perform the way they did and everybody was in love with them last summer. With the season starting Monday Sox fans have many expectations coming off a World Series Championship. Don’t be surprised if these three make an impact in April and Peavy seems beyond excited to start the home opener on Friday. Are you excited Sox fans?

Red Sox Report: Sizemore Decision Has Impact On Sox Lineup

Grady Sizemore has done nothing but impress the Sox with his bat and glove.

Who will be leading off for the Red Sox preparing for the first pitch from Chris Tillman on Opening Day in Baltimore? With ten days from the first game of the 2014 season, signs point towards Grady Sizemore winning the center field job as well as the leadoff spot in the Sox lineup. Not something most fans and writers expected back in February when the team reported to camp. Sizemore, who has not played in a major league game since 2011, has looked healthy this spring and this upcoming weekend will play in three straight games for the first time.

With the health and the timetable of Sizemore’s recovery not being questioned at this time signs point to Jackie Bradley being sent down to Triple A unless another move is made to deal outfielder. The Sox like Mike Carp’s bat off the bench and the fact he can provide help at first base. Carp packs left handed punch off the bench that this team needs, and unless they are overwhelmed with an offer he is here to stay. Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes seem to have the left field platoon locked down with Carp getting the occasional start as well. Sizemore of course needs to pass the test this weekend. Starting Bradley in Pawtucket I feel is the better choice than with the big club just to send him down like last season. He could use some more seasoning and work on hitting pitches inside.

With Sizemore leading off who will follow him? Signs point to Shane Victorino taking hold of the second spot in the lineup once again and Pedroia following in the three spot. Pedroia is more of a number two hitter but is hitting third to better the team. After thumb surgery this offseason Pedroia’s power numbers should be up this year. Pedroia did hit second in the World Series last October, with Ortiz and Napoli moving up as well but unless the team needs a shakeup the lineup with have Ortiz in the cleanup spot with Napoli behind him.

With the first five spots taken, expect Nava or Gomes to hit in the six hole in the lineup and possible switch with Victorino who seems to be giving up switch hitting this season and may move down against right handed pitchers. Xander Bogaerts will likely hit seventh to start the season and in all likelihood move up in the lineup if he shows the plate discipline he did last October and so far in Spring Training. Will Middlebrooks, who started last season hitting sixth in the Sox lineup, is expected to start in either the eight or nine spot flip flopping with the catcher that day David Ross or A.J. Pierzynski, depending on the matchup.
Sizemore is the real wild card in the whole lineup. If he starts the season with the team he leads off. If he doesn’t it is likely Jonny Gomes or Daniel Nava will, which might make the lineup suffer. You can’t expect Sizemore to be like he was in Cleveland but there is no question he is going to try to be the player he once was. With Victorino giving up switch hitting the flexibility might be lost when it comes to matchups but Victorino showed last October he could hit right handed pretty well. Pedroia and Ortiz are going to hit and both will start the season healthy together.

Mike Napoli came to spring training with no worries about his hip this year and just focusing on his hitting and defense. If Napoli cuts down on his strikeouts he could be even more of a force than last season, but the real focus is just continuing to have good at bats and work the counts like he did last season averaging over five pitches per at bat. Nava and Gomes can also work the count if they hit behind Napoli which will leave pitchers giving Ortiz something to hit. Bogaerts is already expected to be a top shortstop and the Sox will likely have an advantage against most teams if Bogaerts shows he can a premier hitter as a primarily weak hitting position.

The Sox are hoping the work Middlbrooks did this offseason will translate onto the field.

The Sox are hoping the work Middlbrooks did this offseason will translate onto the field.

Which Will Middlebrooks will the Sox see this season? The one who suffered through a long slump last year eventually getting sent down to Pawtucket and losing his job or the one who when recalled seemed to focus on grinding out at bats and working on hitting the off speed pitches. No question he has the power, the consistency is what John Farrell and the Sox brass are looking for. Pierzynski has gap power which may lead to many doubles at Fenway and has always been an above average hitting catcher throughout his career. Ross, who will see more time than the prototypical backup catcher, is no slouch at the plate either as we saw in October he was a contributor as well.

John Farrell and Ben Cherington still have to ultimately make the decision on Grady Sizemore within the next ten days but in my opinion he makes the team and Bradley starts in Pawtucket. The Sox will grind out at bats just like last season and try to get to bullpens early. If everything follows suit the Sox lineup on Opening Day look like this:

1. CF Grady Sizemore
2. RF Shane Victorino
3. 2B Dustin Pedroia
4. DH David Ortiz
5. 1B Mike Napoli
6. LF Daniel Nava
7. SS Xander Bogaerts
8. C A.J. Pierzynski
9. 3B Will Middlebrooks

If Sizemore doesn’t pass the test weekend and needs more time in Florida to start the year expect the lineup to look like this.

1. LF Daniel Nava
2. RF Shane Victorino
3. 2B Dustin Pedroia
4. DH David Ortiz
5. 1B Mike Napoli
6. SS Xander Bogaerts
7. 3B Will Middlebrooks
8. C A.J. Pierzynski
9. CF Jackie Bradley Jr.

Why Giancarlo Stanton is a Perfect Fit for the Red Sox

Stanton would make a powerful addition to any lineup

Stanton would make a powerful addition to any lineup

Ever since the Great Fire Sale of 2012, the Miami Marlins have been receiving inquiries and offers for their lone remaining superstar, Giancarlo Stanton. There has been a good deal of speculation that the Red Sox have been interested in Stanton for some time, and who could blame them? Stanton possesses what many believe is the best raw power in baseball, and would be a potent addition to any lineup. Where it gets interesting, however, is that there are rumors that the Red Sox are contemplating putting together what they deem to be a competitive offer to the Marlins, last week’s disagreement aside. The Red Sox are in an envious position in that they have enough organizational depth and prospect quality to make a deal for Stanton a possibility, even if the Marlins insist that a deal is not forthcoming.

Earlier this month a report in the Boston Globe suggested that an acceptable offer for Stanton could include Matt Barnes, Christian Vasquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and one of either Will Middlebrooks or Garin Cecchini. That package contains a substantial amount of both talent and potential, and it would take a serious amount of courage for any general manager to turn down. I would have some doubts about it from the Red Sox’ perspective, as it would be very hard for them to give up a centerfielder – Bradley Jr. – for a corner outfielder, especially when there is no obvious replacement on the current team. The team would be much better served trying to include a player such as Bryce Brentz, who profiles similarly to Stanton as a power-hitting right-handed outfielder, and is much more easily replaced. The rest of this hypothetical offer though, could be swallowed by the Red Sox with little damage to their organizational depth.



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The Red Sox farm system is widely regarded as one of the best in the game, and every player lost in this trade could be replaced by an identically valuable prospect in the Red Sox system. After Matt Barnes, the starting pitching depth is still intact with Henry Owens, Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, and Ruby De La Rosa; Vasquez can be replaced by Blake Swihart, who is considered the superior prospect due to his more prolific bat; Brentz (or other replacement position prospect) would be more of a depth loss and would not do much organizational damage; Betts does not have a role in the Red Sox organization because he currently shares a position with Dustin Pedroia, who just happens to be in the first of an eight-year contract extension. The Red Sox organizational depth would really bear fruit under this scenario, as it would allow the Red Sox to add a premium major-league talent without destroying their entire farm system in the process.

These trade scenarios being thrown out all operate under the assumption that the acquiring team is allowed to sign Stanton to a multi-year contract extension as a condition of the trade. No team would want to give up such a monumental prospect haul for a couple years of production, even superior power production. Also, Stanton will play all of this season at age 24, meaning that the a team could have the opportunity to lock up most, if not all, of his prime years, adding greater value to an already sizable deal. The Red Sox are one of a handful of teams that have the financial flexibility to make such an extension a reality, as well as the organizational depth to survive the loss of top-tier talent. In other words, there is not much standing in the way of Giancarlo Stanton coming to Boston, other than a willingness to do business.

Red Sox Then & Now: Shortstop Edition

Following their World Series title one of the key questions facing the Boston Red Sox was how would they assemble their infield going into 2014? Xander Bogaerts is an out-of-this-world talent, and he was going to play a significant role on the team regardless, but the question remained whether to resign Stephen Drew, pushing Will Middlebrooks to a bench role, or to let Drew walk into free agency and place their bets with Bogaerts and Middlebrooks. This wise move likely saved the Red Sox a great deal of money and headache, particularly in the long term.

Hopefully we've seen the last of Drew in a Sox uniform

Hopefully we’ve seen the last of Drew in a Sox uniform

No one really knows where Scott Boras came up with his otherworldly demands for Drew, which have been rumored at $13-$15 million a year over a 3-4 year span, which is needless to say, ridiculous for a player of Drew’s ability (or lack thereof). Assuming he got that max contract length from some desperate team and was ready to play by Opening Day, Oliver projects Drew to be worth 5.9 WAR over the next four seasons combined. The free agent market valued a win (1 WAR) at about $6 million this offseason, so using that template Drew would be worth 35.4 million over the life of a four year contract, a rate significantly lower than his reported asking price. Otherwise, 5.9 WAR over a four season span is a far cry from consistent production, and a team like the Red Sox would have little trouble finding similar value from a player who would cost significantly less in salary commitments (even considering their shortstop curse over the last decade). Over that same span, Bogaerts is projected to post 18.3 WAR (worth $109.8 million), while also being a full decade younger than his potential counterpart. There is absolutely no reason for a player like Drew to replace a player like Bogaerts who represents nothing but talent and upside, and will produce significantly more value at a fraction of the cost.

The X-Man is on his way to becoming a Boston icon

The X-Man is on his way to becoming a Boston icon

For the sake of comparison, let’s compare Drew to Middlebrooks’s four year projections, since he is the player who would end up losing significant playing time in the event of a Drew re-signing. Middlebrooks is expected to contribute 8.2 WAR (worth $49.2 million) over the next four seasons; while he doesn’t match Bogaerts’s prolific production, he still represents a clear upgrade over Drew, and will also come at a fraction of the cost as an arbitration-eligible player. In this case re-signing Drew would cost the Red Sox production because it would move a cheaper, superior player to a bench role, while giving an expensive, inferior one an undue amount of playing time.

There is really no logical reason at this point for the Red Sox to re-sign Stephen Drew. There is a reason that Drew finds himself still on the free agent market, and it has less to do with draft pick compensation than one might think.  The demands are exorbitant, and the cost would be unnecessary to take on when there are in-house options available to provide more production at a fraction of the cost. The Red Sox deserve credit for showing faith in their young players and allowing them opportunities to contribute at the big league level, because this strategy affords them the flexibility to use their resources elsewhere. In this particular case, it avoids redundant additions and maintains that flexibility that is crucial to a successful season.

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