(This article was recently updated based on current ADP trends)
While the Red Sox 93-loss 2012 season didn’t offer many positives for the true Boston Faithful, it did bring us Will Middlebrooks. His season was cut short in August by a broken wrist after just 75 games and 267 ABs, but even in that half-season of production, Middlebrooks displayed enough baseball life to give hope for the 2013 season. His best attribute is power, which he backed up with 15 HR in 267 ABs, though that was supported by a perhaps unsustainable 21.4% HR/FB ratio. (For comparison purposes, that ratio is similar to Mike Trout’s 21.6% and Ryan Braun’s 22.8%.) But, like a true power-hitter-in-training, Middlebrooks does strike out a ton, which may suggest that he is a swing-n’-hit-it-far type of guy. He struck out 70 times in his shortened season and barely walked at all, which led to a putrid 0.19 BB/K.
The young 3B plays in Fenway, which is fairly friendly to pull-happy righties, and you hope that Middlebrooks learns how to tame the Green Monster and doesn’t get taken in by its short dimensions. Think of Middlebrooks as a high-power-potential player with upside - a 3B who could go for 25-30 HR at the high range, 70-80 RBI and 5-10 SB. Not too shabby. Coming into his second full season and recovering from a wrist injury will put pressure on him to prove that he belongs in the Big Show, but RotoBaller thinks he's fully confident in himself and ready for MLB success. Right now, he is pegged at the 6-spot in the lineup, behind Napoli and Ortiz, but it is conceivable he could move to the 5-hole if Napoli slumps. Expect a slight decline in BA, which was aided in 2012 by a higher-than-average .335 BABIP. We’ll need another full year to see if that is flukey rate, or if he just knows how to hit and can regularly sustain a higher BABIP than his peers.
RotoBaller's 2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Score: 8
(scores are from 1 - 10, with 10 being the biggest sleeper potential based on current ADPs)
RotoBaller's 2013 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .278/26/89/74/3
RotoBaller's Target Draft Rounds: Rounds 11-12
Middlebrooks is currently the #11th or #12th ranked 3B according to ADP data -- he can certainly be a nice power injection with upside, available for cheap in the later rounds of drafts. He will be a solid grab in round 11 or 11. Keep an eye on him early in the season to see how his wrist has healed and how is is adjusting to his new uncontested role at the Hot Corner in one of the biggest markets in the game. With 3B shallow this year, Middlebrooks can prove to be a strong fantasy contributor and draft day find in 2013.
Be sure to check out RotoBaller's full Fantasy Baseball Third Base Rankings for 2013.