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Will Middlebrooks may have homered in Sunday’s game at Baltimore, but his struggles offensively have continued. Middlebrooks showed great potential last season before getting hurt, and this season we have seen the power in spurts, but the consistency has not been there at all. There are many theories on this and some people still blame his injury from last year, but anyone that understands baseball can watch Middlebrooks take an at bat and tell you what is wrong.
Middlebrooks has a terrible approach to the plate. He had good numbers last season due to the fact that pitchers were unfamiliar with him and he saw a lot of good pitches to hit. Now that teams have a scouting report on him, it seems easy to get him out and he is hitting a dismal .196 and has 60 strike outs in 199 at bats. Many times it is just Middlebrooks doing it to himself. The scouting report on him is to pitch him outside, and it has been very successful this season. Not only does Middlebrooks have an open stance, but he flies open on his swing and tries to pull the ball. Even with his home run Sunday, he did not drive the ball to the other field on purpose. For a guy who has so much potential, he lacks patience and a plan at the plate.
He needs to learn how to take outside pitches to the opposite field, which is one of the best ways to get yourself out of a slump at the plate. But he continues to fly open and try to pull the ball, pitchers realize that and throw him outside and Middlebrooks finds ways to get himself out. All he needs to do is take a look at some old Manny Ramirez film and see how Ramirez kept his hands back and could take any outside pitch to the opposite field with power. Ramirez has admitted that when he is in a slump he tries to let the ball get deeper and tries to drive the ball to the opposite field, and this is exactly what Middlebrooks needs to start doing if he wants to live up to all the hype with his offensive potential.
If Middlebrooks does not get things turned around soon, the Red Sox could consider making a change. Though, depth at third base in the Red Sox system is thin with their best prospect being Garin Cecchini at the single A level. Cecchini is nowhere close to ready, but there has been a lot of talks about potentially moving top prospect Xander Bogaerts to third base. Bogaerts is having a great year and was hitting over .300 in double A Portland before getting called up to Pawtucket last week. This may not be a bad move for the Sox considering how he has hit in the minors. Bogaerts, who played third base for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, is a shortstop by trade, but he may have a hard time getting to the big club at that position, especially with the way Jose Iglesias has been playing this year. If he can make the move to third, which he should have an easy time doing, he could be in the majors and fighting for a starting position by August.
Everyone loves Middlebrooks’ potential, but if he is not going to make adjustments and the Sox have a top 3 prospect in baseball knocking at the door, he could lose his job quickly. That brings up questions about potentially trading him or what his future would be. If he can get things turned around, he could always make a position switch to make room for Bogaerts, or potentially he could be packaged in a deal for a power hitter like Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins. Regardless, people will be watching closely to see how Middlebrooks plays over the next month or so, because he could be on a short leash and could potentially lose the job that was just handed to him in the offseason.