Buttoned Up At Third Base: Let The Contingency Planning Begin


Conor Duffy and Patrick Cavanaugh have taken a close look at third base over the past few days, from prospective backups/prospects Garin Cecchini and Kolbrin Vitek to Will Middlebrooks chances to be the man at the hot corner. They don’t call it the hot corner for nothing. Ask Adrian Beltre, who after catching one in his own hot corner in 2009, most assuredly now wears a cup.

August 3, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks (64) fouls off a pitch during the fifth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-US PRESSWIRE

It’s the legacy of Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Wade Boggs carried forward by Chipper Jones, Evan Longoria and Miguel Cabrera. Now the Red Sox look to Middlebrooks to step in full-time and take over the position from a pretty damn good third baseman in his day, Kevin Youkilis.

Even if Middlebrooks is indeed the real deal, as Cavanaugh’s article explores, pro franchises that have their stuff together start planning for flexibility, depth and the inevitable injury that can potentially tank a season. Boston’s 2012 injury-plagued campaign is proof positive that player development and depth are key to keeping teams strong.

BSI fan John Fahrer had an interesting take on both Middlebrooks and Boston’s prospects: “Many are thinking Xander Bogaerts could eventually shift over to third as well. Middlebrooks could eventually move to first if that happens. We could probably carry all three of Middlebrooks, Cecchini, and Bogaerts by the time all three are MLB ready since Ortiz will likely be retired by then.

"The biggest concern about Middlebrooks (other than durability): Will he ever draw enough walks? He only had 13 walks to go with those 70 strikeouts. The OBP looked decent since his average was so good. It won’t look too good if he were to only hit .270.”"

Given their relative strength at third base, Boston need not explore a weak third base free agent market. Mauro Gomez played some third base last year as well and there is as yet no reason to think that getting hit hard by a pitch that broke his wrist necessarily makes Middlebrooks injury prone. He’s young, strong, talented and confident. The question for Middlebrooks is how does he handle his first year not as the hunter but as the hunted.

Hot fun in the summertime
Hot fun in the summertime
– Hot Fun In The Summertime, Sly and The Family Stone