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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

New England Sports 366, #64: Will Middlebrooks

As a rookie in 2012, third baseman Will Middlebrooks came to Boston and hit .288 with 15 homers in just 75 games and 286 plate appearances. I was convinced - mortally convinced - that he was the next great Red Sox slugger. At the time, I was living in the Maryland suburbs, and I compared him to the rookie playing in DC with the Nationals, Bryce Harper. That same summer, Harper hit .270 with 22 homers in almost twice as many plate appearances as Middlebrooks.

I was wrong.

The next season, 2013, Harper sustained his early efforts while Middlebrooks slumped badly. In 94 games he hit just .227 with 17 homers. It got worse the next year, when he batted just .191 and the power evaporated, leaving him with just 2 round-trippers on the year. By 2015, Middlebrooks was gone, laboring in San Diego as a part-time player who never rediscovered his swing. Meanwhile Harper was becoming a beast. While Middlebrooks hit .212 with 9 homers for the Padres in 2015, Harper hit .330 with 42 homers for Washington while winning the NL MVP. Oops.

It sure would have been nice if Middlebrooks had been the player I thought he was back in 2012 when balls were jumping off his bat and out of Fenway park. But then we're frequently seduced by early production that hints at greatness to come. All too often, it never pans out and we're left with what-might-have-beens. He did help win the 2013 World Series, so I guess we'll always have that.

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