I was taking a peek at Middlebrooks and was curious to examine who he compared with at age 24. Up popped the name of Frank Thomas. No, not the recently inducted to Hall of Fame Thomas, but the very serviceable Thomas of the 1950s and 1960s.
Thomas was a dependable right-hand power bat. Thomas ten times exceeded twenty home runs and finished his multi team career with a respectable .266 average. Thomas also had a degree of versatility performing extended service at first, third and the outfield. What I do recall of Thomas is he physically is similar to the size of Middlebrooks, could crush the ball and will not be in the Olympics hundred meter dash. At third, Thomas often would display the instincts of Roger Dorn – he never met a ball he could not mishandle.
Middlebrooks has impressive power numbers tossed out by his supporters, of which I am one. Thirty-two home runs in a bit over a full season is something that you just can’t ignore. You can also not ignore his strikeouts, lack of plate discipline and lack of contact. Is this just a developmental issue? Or is Middlebrooks just going to be a baseball version of Terry Malloy shouting “I coulda been somebody.”
With spring training beginning one of the key story lines will be Will. Every at bat will be analyzed and any negative blip will result in the panic button being pressed in RSN. Move Xander Bogaerts! Pull in Michael Young from the retired list! Send out the hounds to locate Stephen Drew!
If Middlebrooks does become Thomas, the Red Sox will be set at third for the rest of the decade. This spring will be the beginning or the end for Middlebrooks.