Will Middlebrooks Lone Red Sox Prospect on Keith Law's Updated Top 50

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 10: U.S. Futures All-Star Will Middlebrooks #16 of the Boston Red Sox throws the ball to first base during the 2011 XM All-Star Futures Game at Chase Field on July 10, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

An ESPN Insider subscription is required, and Keith Law has a family to feed, so I won't be pasting gigantic chunks of text from his article today. But I did want to mention that Will Middlebrooks, previously not ranked, was ranked #42 in Law's updated Top 50 prospects rankings:

Analysis: He still has to work on recognizing off-speed and working the count. Otherwise he should be a plus defender at third who hits for 25-plus homers.

We've talked about Middlebrooks and his lack of working the count in the past, of course. He has tremendous plate coverage that helps to make up for some of it, but he will have to learn a little bit in order to avoid being exploited at the highest levels. His .315/.359/.498 season at Double-A Portland has been his very best as a professional, though, so there is something to be said about a bat that continues to improve each year, even when facing more difficult competition each time out.

Just for kicks, this is what I wrote about him in Baseball Prospectus 2011:

After a promotion to High-A, Middlebrooks' numbers progressed once again. His isolated power climbed to .163 on the strength of hard-hit doubles, and he posted a 25.2-percent strikeout rate (after entering the season with a career rate of 30.0 percent) thanks to excellent plate coverage. The third baseman is one of the top defenders at his position in the minors, but he's not without his worrisome traits, as he drew just 13 walks in his final 69 games after strolling to first 22 times in his first 45 contests. The development (or stagnation) of the 21-year-old free swinger's plate discipline at his next gig in Double-A could go a long way toward determining his career arc.    

He has 18 walks in 68 games (and 274 plate appearances) so he has at least kept up his previous pace as far as walks are concerned, despite the promotion. His strikeout rate is just 22.8 at Double-A (a new career-best) and his .183 ISO would be a new career-best as well. It's no wonder he was one of the Red Sox's representatives at this year's Futures Game. The 22-year-old is still a few seasons away most likely, but in Law's eyes, he is now Boston's top prospect.

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