- Today Kevin Youkilis starts his minor league rehab assignment, start the countdown. *Cue Europe*. Since the day Will Middlebrooks got called up, I’ve been talking about trading Kevin Youkilis. The reality is, he probably won’t get dealt. The most likely option is Middlebrooks gets moved to the bench or send down to Pawtucket.
Another option is Youkilis backing up 3rd, 1st, and DH. Giving Gonzalez and Ortiz a day off a week and Youkilis and Middlebrooks splitting the rest of the time at 3rd. Taking Ortiz or Gonzalez out of the lineup, even only once a week, is not a solution.
My real question is, why not Middlebrooks in the outfield? I know that he’s never played in the outfield in his professional career, but hear me out. For the sake of the argument, let’s say that Middlebrooks would roam left with the speedier Crawford moving to right once he gets back. Crawford has never played right but he’s one of the better fielding left fielders in the game, he can figure it out. First of all, the best years in Red Sox history had Manny Ramirez roaming left field. Do we really think Middlebrooks isn’t a better fielder than Manny? When he’s in Fenway, the monster has his back. That will help the adjustment period.
Ryan Braun, possibly the best left fielder in the game, played his entire minor league career and his rookie season (Rookie of the Year) at third. That next year he played his entire season in left field. So granted Braun had the offseason to work on it, but he didn’t miss a beat. Braun’s first year in left field was his worst average in his career (.285) but it was the most home runs he’s ever hit (37). Moving to left field didn’t hurt Braun’s development. Braun was 24-years old his first season in left, Middlebrooks is currently 23.
Miguel Cabrera is a different story. He played his entire minor league career in the infield, except for 3 games which is he played in his final season at AA. He played the other 64 at third that year. It seems like so long ago, by date and size, that Cabrera was a 17-year old shortstop in the Marlins system. His rookie year, at the age of 20, Cabrera came up as a third baseman. Cabrera played 34 games at third but finished the year as the Marlins’ left fielder. Cabrera played 55 games in left that year. And oh yeah, the Marlins defeated the Yankees in the World Series that season. The next year Cabrera played his entire season in the outfield, 158 games (100 in right). At 21 years old Miguel Cabrera was the starting right fielder for the Marlins, hitting .294 with 33 home runs. Since then Cabrera has gone to first and now back to third with the Tigers.
Braun and Cabrera are two of the best players in the game and their move to the outfield didn’t seem to hamper their development. So if Youkilis is going to be the starting third baseman, I’d rather see Middlebrooks in the outfield than not on the team and not in the lineup. This team needs a boost and maybe Middlebrooks is exactly what they need? He could still backup third when Youk, Gonzalez, or Ortiz need a game off and Ross and Sweeney can get into the lineup. But at this point, it would be crazy to sit Middlebrooks down.