When the San Diego Padres traded for Will Middlebrooks in the flurry of moves during the off-season, his acquisition was pretty much under the radar. Middlebrooks beat out Yangervis Solarte for the starting third base job out of spring training, and he seemed to be entrenched as the Padres starting third baseman. He was even batting fifth behind Justin Upton in the first couple of series for the Padres.
Oh how times have changed for the third baseman as he is now a missing man in the Padres lineup. Sunday marks the fifth game in a row that Middlebrooks is not in the starting line-up for the San Diego Padres. An 0-28 slide has his average all the way down to. 191 on the season.
Middlebrooks pinch hit for Cory Spangenberg in the top of the seventh on Sunday and promptly fell behind 0-2 in the count. He worked the count all the way to 3-2 by laying off some off speed pitches in the dirt. He ultimately grounded out to second base, but perhaps he is starting snap out of it. The Padres are showing some signs that the team is moving in another direction, so he needs to start producing.
Spangenberg and Yangervis Solarte are both swinging the bat well and both hitters are left-handed. The team being made up of mostly right-handed hitters, could surely use some more lefties in the line-up. Solarte plays a decent third base defensively, but Middlebrooks seems way more reliable there. Spangenberg can play third, but he seems to be better suited for second base.
Even Jedd Gyorko is starting to show signs of life with a 2-4 game on Sunday afternoon. He did however strike out horribly with the base loaded on an outside pitch with a 3-2 count in the 4th inning. Gyorko is more than capable of playing third base if necessary. We have yet to see him there, but his ability to play there also puts some pressure on Will Middlebrooks. He needs to turn it on, because this seasons Padres team doesn’t have time to sit back and wait for him to develop.
Middlebrooks does have three home runs on the season. His opposite field home runs at Dodger Stadium and Wrigley Field were a thing of beauty. He displayed that prolific power that is very enticing for major league teams. Unfortunately with that power come inconsistency. That has plagued Middlebrooks his whole playing career, and is something that needs to be corrected.
With the Boston Red Sox in 2012, Middlebrooks looked to be a future all-star for the team. He hit .288 with 15 home runs and 54 RBI’s in 75 games his rookie year. He followed that season by only managing to hit .227 with 17 home runs and 49 RBI’s in the 2013 season. He ended up playing 45 games in the minor leagues that season due to his low batting average, and lack of production. The Red Sox were beginning to sour on the slugger.
The 2014 season was a disaster for Middlebrooks as he only hit .191 in the major leagues for the Red Sox and .231 in AAA. He was deemed expendable and the Padres scooped him up for newly acquired Ryan Hanigan. The deal was great for the Padres as Middlebrooks is only making $521 thousand this season while Hannigan was scheduled to collect $3.5 million dollars. The Padres saved $3 million dollars and Middlebrooks at the age of 26 could still blossom into an everyday third baseman.
The acquisition of Middlebrooks had to be one of A.J. Preller’s best moves as G.M. of the Padres. If all does not work out with Middlebrooks then the Padres still save $3.5 million this season plus Hanigan is scheduled to make $3.7 million dollars for the 2016 season. On top of that he is owed either a buyout of $800 thousand or a contract for 2017 at $3.75 million dollars. Hanigan’s contract is horrible and the Tampa Bay Rays simply wanted to get rid of him. Hanigan is hitting .222 in 54 at bats for the Red Sox this season. He is one of the most expensive backup catchers in the league, the Red Sox can afford him. Good for them.
So will the slugging third baseman ever find that consistency and be a fixture in the Padres line-up? It is really anyone’s guess as the Padres have many options on how the Padres roster can be formulated. Yonder Alonso is currently out, but once he returns there will need to be a roster move made. Hopefully that roster move does not involve Will Middlebrooks, as I like him as a player. Hopefully he can make the adjustments and grow as a major leaguer.