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The Boston Red Sox right now are a 22 games over .500, but still don’t have a player at third who plays on an everyday basis. However, there are a few options in the minors, including 24-year-old Will Middlebrooks and 20-year-old Xander Bogaerts.
Brock Holt and Brandon Snyder have filled in nicely for the Red Sox since the trade that sent Jose Iglesias to the Detroit Tigers in the three-team, seven-player deal that gave the Red Sox the rights to Jake Peavy, but are they really the answer at the hot corner for the last two months of the season?
Holt is a great young player who can play multiple infield positions, including second and short, and is more suited as a utility player at best. He started off hot, but still has only two extra-base hits this season with the big league club. He has driven in 10 runs and only struck out four times in 15 games, but his lack of getting on base is concerning. His average is only .261 with a .302 OBP and that is not good enough for a guy towards the bottom of the order. Plus, third base is a power position in the AL with the likes of Miguel Cabrera and Manny Machado in the league.
Snyder has not performed much better with a .243 average and five extra-base hits, including two home runs, in his 18 games. His OBP is only .263 and he has yet to walk in those 18 contests, compared to nine strikeouts. He has played pretty well defensively, but has barely any versatility except for his first base time in the minors.
The other options at third are with the Pawtucket Red Sox and have not really wowed anyone with their numbers either.
Middlebrooks started the 2013 season as the future at third base and is still in the Red Sox’ plans down the road, but at this time he needs to work on his approach at the plate, including being more patient and driving the ball again. He played in 53 games with the Red Sox with a .192 average and nine homers and 25 RBI before being optioned off. His walk to strikeout ratio was 9-60.
With his at-bats in Pawtucket, the 24-year-old has really broken his swing down a lot. As of August 5, he has yet to homer since July 25. With his new approach he has a .259 average with a .318 OBP in 40 games with the Paw Sox. He has launched eight home runs and driven in 30 runs over that time. The even better news has to be his 14 walks and 33 strikeouts over that time period.
The hot-headed Middlebrooks did get ejected on Wednesday afternoon after arguing ball and strikes. But another major factor had to be the fact that Holt got the call to the Red Sox over him. This type of behavior is unacceptable for a professional player. However, Iglesais came back up two weeks after his little episode in Pawtucket after he was sent down when Stephen Drew was activated from the DL. That could mean even a stubborn Middlebrooks could find his way back on the team soon enough.
Middlebrooks will be up on this team by September, but he should see some time in August if Snyder and Holt continue to struggle on a nightly basis. Yes, it may be the ninth spot of the order, but a hole in the lineup is still not something any team wants down the stretch when playing to win a division title.
Another option the Red Sox could turn to that isn’t on the 40-man roster is Bogaerts.
The 20-year-old has hammered Triple-A pitching to the tune of a .282 average and a .378 OBP. He has walked 25 times compared to 34 strikeouts in his 47 games. He also has eight home runs and has doubled 10 times in 174 at-bats.
The one thing that Bogaerts does not have going for him is his six starts at third base in his minor-league career. He has played mostly shortstop with Middlebrooks down on the farm and the best way to get him ready for the majors is to bring Middlebrooks up for two to three weeks and have Bogaerts at third on a nightly basis.
If Middlebrooks struggles to produce offensively, then Bogaerts will get the call to play third with maybe even 20 or more games played while Middlebrooks tries to earn his way back into the Red Sox’s favor. Plus, Bogaerts will be an even more valuable major leaguer if he can play multiple positions.
Whatever decision the Red Sox make needs to be made before the rosters expand on Sept. 1. That way, the team knows which third baseman it will stick with in the playoffs, if the squad makes it that far. A few weeks is not enough time to judge young talent and Middlebrooks and Bogaerts both have some things to work on in order to be must-start players on this team.
All stats before are accurate before the start of games on August 5.