We started with two up-and-comers in Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. Now we move on to the man who's been there, done that, then fallen completely off a cliff: Will Middlebrooks.
Over the Monster
Red Sox fans had high hopes for young Middlebrooks entering into 2013. The third baseman had been impressive at the plate in his major league debut before his season was cut short by a broken wrist, and though wrist injuries are always a cause for long-term concern, Middlebrooks was still seen as a potential x-factor on a team trying to claw its way into contention.
While the Sox of course managed the "contention" bit just fine, it turned out to be in spite of Will Middlebrooks, not because of him. Other than a three-homer performance in Toronto, Middlebrooks did almost nothing in April, and barely improved in the first half of May, leading ultimately to his demotion to Triple-A.
Though fans might think he took a big step forward upon his return in August, a hot start quickly turned cold, with Middlebrooks hitting just .225/.252/.405 over his last 30 games. That, of course, lead directly into the playoffs, where he was among the worst performers in a postseason filled with low-scoring contests. By the time the Sox were in the World Series, he had been benched for Xander Bogaerts.
With Stephen Drew not yet re-signed, however, it does seem as though Middlebrooks will get the chance to prove himself again. He'll likely get the nod in April as Boston's starting third baseman, and could easily wipe away the memory of 2013 with a strong year. We'll write it off as a lingering effect of the wrist (see: Ortiz, David ca. 2009) or the good ol' sophomore slump--both entirely reasonable explanations.
Or he could be awful and give Jonathan Herrera/Garin Cecchini the job. One of those.