ESPN Insider's Keith Law, scout extraordinare, has released his second annual top players under 25 list. Last year he detailed the top 50...and no Red Sox made it. This year he cut the ranks down to 25, but young Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks manage to squeak in, at no. 22. Here is what Law had to say about Middlebrooks:
Current: Middlebrooks started out on fire after his early-May promotion, but once interleague play ended in late June his free-swinging ways caught up to him, with a .244/.277/.423 line from the resumption of AL-only play until his season ended on August 10 due to a broken wrist. He has above-average power with average range, good hands, and a plus arm at third base.
Future: A low-OBP, 25-30 homer third baseman who adds a few runs (saved) of value on defense is a good player, even if he's held back by the number of outs he makes with his bat. My concern on Middlebrooks is more in the short term, that we'll see a drop in his power production as pitchers exploit his total lack of patience at the plate.
I'm no pro scout, but I totally agree with Law on this. I think Sox fans were a little too high on Middlebrooks last year. A good player, yes. But I think public perception of him was helped by the fact that the team was so unlikeable, and seemed so hopeless for the future before the Dodgers trade, that he seemed better by comparison.
Middlebrooks will probably be a useful player and put together a nice career. But he's not a franchise cornerstone unless he can drastically improve his batting eye. His approach at the plate is a little too Salty and Crawford and not enough Pedroia and Youkilis. If he can improve his patience, his career trajectory should change -- for the better.