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Recently, we previewed one of the cornerstones of the Red Sox, second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Today, we look at the future of the Red Sox, who happens to be manning the hot corner at third base:
The situation at third base is different from the current outlook at second base, but not so different from where we were back in 2008. After Pedroia’s Rookie of the Year campaign, fans and management were obviously optimistic and excited, but guardedly so. Too many rookies have flamed out, a la Bobby Crosby in Oakland or Angel Berroa in Kansas City, for one season to be a sure sign of anything in the big leagues.
Will Middlebrooks is in much the same position this year. While he didn’t win ROY last season, Middlebrooks delivered a very solid .288 average, along with 15 Home Runs and 54 RBI in only 75 games played, which project out to about 32 HR and 116 RBI over a full 162 game slate. While he likely will not keep up such a high level of production over his first full season in the bigs, the job appears to be his to lose.
Middlebrooks will also be backed up by Pedro Ciriaco at the hot corner, and with Kevin Youkilis now a member of the Yankees, they lost the flexibility to slide him over to third when needed. This puts additional pressure on Middlebrooks to perform, and to stay healthy. He will likely be hitting in the 5 slot most of the time, with Napoli batting ahead of him at cleanup. Now that teams have had an offseason to study his approach and he is consistently batting in the middle of the lineup, it remains to be seen whether he will be able to handle the added pressure and thrive.
Much of the Red Sox potential for offensive success could depend on his ability to drive in runs this year, and the team will hope to see the same sort of results from him as they did when they turned to another promising youngster named Dustin Pedroia not too long ago.