Will Middlebrooks

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William Scott Middlebrooks

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Biographical Information[edit]

Will Middlebrooks is a third baseman who made his major league debut for the Boston Red Sox in 2012.

As a high school senior, he went 13-0 and hit .555 with 22 doubles, 48 RBI and 22 steals in 38 games. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 5th round of the 2007 amateur draft (in between Michael Taylor and Marc Rzepczynski), out of high school, and signed by scout Jim Robinson. He made his professional debut the following year with the Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League, hitting .254/.298/.368 in 59 games with 17 doubles and 1 homer. He struck out in 73 of 209 at-bats, a worrying sign, and went 10-for-10 in steal attempts. He tied Taylor Grote for 4th in the NYPL in whiffs. He fielded .927 at third base. In the playoffs, he excelled, going 6 for 12.

In 2009, he was with the Greenville Drive of the South Atlantic League, where he played 103 games, hitting .265/.349/.404. His fielding percentage improved slightly, to .934. Baseball America rated him as having the best infield arm in the Red Sox chain. He continued his steady improvement in 2010, when he moved up to the Carolina League's Salem Red Sox. There, he hit .276/.331/.439 and fielded .945 in 114 games, with 31 doubles and 12 homers and was named to the circuit's All-Star team as the top third baseman. Baseball America rated him as the best defensive third baseman and having the best infield arm in the Carolina League and as the #13 prospect in the loop (between Xavier Avery and Michael Burgess).

In 2011, Will emerged as a top prospect, even though he missed a bit of time with an injury. He played 96 games with the Portland Sea Dogs of the AA Eastern League and hit .302/.345/.520 with 25 doubles, 18 homers and 80 RBI. He was selected to play for the United States team in the 2011 Futures Game. Starting at third base and hitting 6th, he singled off Liam Hendriks in the second inning then hit into a double play against Carlos Martinez in the 4th. He was replaced by Nolan Arenado in the 6th. The US won, 6-4. He then was promoted to AAA Pawtucket to finish the season. There, he slumped to .161/.200/.268 in 16 games. He finished among the EL leaders in RBI (4th behind Tyler Moore, Matt Rizzotti and Chris Parmelee), average (8th, between L.J. Hoes and Jordany Valdespin) and slugging (4th, after Travis d'Arnaud, Josh Satin and Moore). He also tied Bryce Brentz for the most RBI by a Boston minor leaguer and was third in their farm system in home runs (behind Ryan Lavarnway and Brentz). After the season, he was named to the Eastern League All-Star team at third base and was ranked #51 on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list. Baseball America also ranked him as the top EL hitting prospect and the #8 prospect in the EL (between Starling Marte and Dellin Betances). One problem for the year was his 26 walks to 114 strikeouts. He then hit .250 with 4 homers in 13 games in the Arizona Fall League.

Middlebrooks started 2012 back at Pawtucket, where he did a lot better than in his first go-round. In 24 April games, he hit .333/.380/.677 with 9 homers and 27 RBI. At the time, he was second to Brad Eldred in the International League in both RBI and home runs. Still, it took a back injury to Boston starting 3B Kevin Youkilis to earn him a call-up to Beantown. He made his major league debut on May 2nd, being inserted into the starting line-up in place of Youkilis and batting 8th in a game agaisnt the Oakland Athletics. He looked ready for the Show, drawing a walk from Brandon McCarthy in his first plate appearance then getting an infield single and opposite field double and stealing a base in 3 at-bats in Boston's 4-2 loss. He hit his first major league home run on May 6th, and it was a grand slam over the Green Monster at Fenway Park against the Baltimore Orioles' Tommy Hunter that tied the game at 5-all in the 5th. That game was an epic contest which ended in 17 innings, 9-6 in favor of the Orioles, with both designated hitters in the game, Chris Davis and Darnell McDonald, eventually taking the mound. For his part, Will was 2 for 7, his other hit a line drive off the Green Monster that would likely have been a homer in any other ballpark, but ended up a single because of Fenway's unique configuration. The next day, May 7th, he hit a pair of homers and a double and droive in 5 runs against the Kansas City Royals to lead Boston to an 11-5 win. After 38 games, Middlebrooks, was hitting .316 with 8 homers and 31 RBI, even though his playing time was reduced when Youkilis returned form his injury. However, Youkilis was playing poorly, with a .225 average and only 13 RBI from the heart of the batting order on June 23rd, when manager Bobby Valentine said that he lessen Youk's playing time at Middlebrooks' benefit. The youngster responded to this show of confidence with 3 hits including a homer in an 8-4 win over the Atlanta Braves that day. The following day, Youkilis was traded to the Chicago White Sox, confirming Will as the team's new starter at the hot corner. On August 10th, however, he was hit on the wrist by a fastball thrown by Esmil Rogers, breaking a bone and ending his rookie season. In 75 games, he hit .288/.325/.509, with 14 doubles, 15 homers and 54 RBI.

While he was supposedly fully healed when he arrived in spring training in 2013, Middlebrooks quickly gave the Red Sox a scare when he left a Grapefruit League game in the 1st inning on February 27th, complaining of soreness in his wrist. However, he was ready in time for Opening Day, and on April 7th became the first player to have a three-homer game that season, doing so against the Toronto Blue Jays in a 13-0 win. He went 4 for 5 with 4 RBI, his first two long balls coming off R.A. Dickey and the third off David Bush; he flied out to the warning track in the 8th, missing a chance at a four-homer game. However, that was a rare highlight in what turned out to be a very difficult season, even as the Red Sox were in the thick of the race for the AL East title. He was hitting barely .192/.228/.389 after 53 games when the Sox decided to send him down to AAA Pawtucket on June 21st. With José Iglesias, Brandon Snyder and Brock Holt manning third base in Boston in his absence, he hit .269 with 10 homers and 35 RBIs in 45 games in the International League. He got a chance to return to Boston when Iglesias, the only one of his three replacements who was hitting well, was traded to the Detroit Tigers as part of a deal that landed starting pitcher Jake Peavy and Snyder went on the disabled list soon after. He made his return to the line-up on August 10th, going 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs in a 5-3 win over the Kansas City Royals. He ended the year at .227 in 94 games, with 17 homers (his career high) and 49 RBIs. Middlebrooks won his only World Series in October that year, but not before being at the center of a very controversial play. In Game 3 against the St. Louis Cardinals on October 26th, the score was tied 4-4 in the bottom of the 9th when Dustin Pedroia threw out Yadier Molina, representing the potential winning run, at home plate. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia then tried to press his luck by also attempting to also throw out Allen Craig at third base. The throw sailed into left field, and Craig and Middlebrooks became entangled at third base, leading to Craig being thrown out at home by LF Daniel Nava. However, home plate umpire Dana DeMuth immediately called obstruction on Middlebrooks, allowing Craig to score the winning run. No World Series game had ever ended on such a play previously. That win gave St. Louis a 2-1 series lead, but Boston then won the next three games to claim the title. For his part, Middlebrooks only appeared in that one game in which he unwittingly played such a key role.

He returned to Boston in 2014 but hit only .191 in 63 games, with 2 homers and 19 RBIs. His OPS+ was just 46 as his once-promising career was now in disarray. On December 19th, he was traded to the San Diego Padres in return for C Ryan Hanigan. He continued to struggle with San Diego, However, as he hit just .212 in 83 games in 2015, with 9 homers and 29 RBIs, his OPS+ at 66. That condemned him to return to the minor leagues for a time, as after signing with the Milwaukee Brewers for 2016, he spent the bulk of the season in the minors, mostly with the Colorado Springs SkySox, where he hit .282 with 10 homers and 47 RBIs in 68 games. His time with Milwaukee was less impressive, though, as he hit just .111 in 10 games. In 2017, he moved to the Texas Rangers, hitting .258 in 78 games for the Round Rock Express. With Texas, he played 22 games, hitting .211 with no homers and 3 RBIs. He was on the move again after the season, signing another minor league deal, this one with the Philadelphia Phillies, before the 2018 season. On the second day of Grapefruit League games on February 24th, however, he collided with LF Andrew Pullin and had to be carted off the field. X-rays showed he had a broken fibula. He did not return after the injury and officially announced his retirement in January 2019.

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