I’ve been spending the past week covering my “sleeper” picks from each Major League team, and although I highlighted the Red Sox’ Jon Lester on Friday, my plane to Chicago got cancelled, so I’ve decided to stay one more night in Boston.
No one says you can’t break the rules — I mean after all, they are my rules. And besides, I think the World Series Champions have earned the right to grace the pages of Fantasy CPR for one more day.
As I turn my focus to hitting, I’m sure all of you are expecting me to go with 21-year-old phenom Xander Bogaerts, but that would be way too easy, my friends.
Instead, I’ll be discussing third baseman Will Middlebrooks, a player who just like the 2014 Red Sox, will be getting another chance to prove he’s worth the hype:
Will Middlebrooks, 3B (current ADP: #181):
The 2013 campaign is one the Red Sox’ Will Middlebrooks would like to forget. Fantasy owners should be aware of that though, and pounce on the talented young third baseman if he is still available later in your drafts.
After a fantastic rookie season in which he batted .288 with 15 HR and 54 RBI, Middlebrooks tumbled off the fantasy baseball map last year.
He had about as bad of a start to the season as one could imagine. Through June, Middlebrooks was batting .192 with nine homers and 25 RBI, and playing through a separated rib he suffered while colliding with teammate David Ross on May 7 — but things only got worse.
Once pegged as the guy who would man the Red Sox’ hot corner for years to come, Middlebrooks was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on June 25.
His time in Rhode Island, in which he hit 10 HR and drove in 35 runs in 45 games, seemed to do well for his confidence, though.
After getting called back up to the majors, he batted .275 and smashed eight home runs in the process. His BB/K ratio was something of a concern all year long, but even that improved by .14 points — going from 0.15 in the first half of the season to 0.29 following his call-up.
Middlebrooks is still just 25 years old and has reportedly beefed up in the off-season, adding 12 pounds of muscle to his already sizable 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame. He’s clearly on a mission to prove his doubters wrong and is a classic example of a post-hype sleeper.
As of now, he has little to no competition at 3B in Boston. Prized prospect Garin Cecchini has yet to play past the Double-A level and it looks like he’ll arrive in Beantown in 2015, not 2014. If the Sox were to re-sign Stephen Drew it could push Middlebrooks into more of a platoon role, but that is not likely to happen.
A now healthier – and stronger – Middlebrooks is a fine draft pick if you’re looking to save some money. He’s currently going for around $6 in auction drafts right now, but is a bargain when you compare him to guys like Josh Donaldson ($16) and Jedd Gyorko ($13). Third base has been a relatively weak position fantasy-wise in the past few years and the talent drops off dramatically after the first six or seven players. Forgoing the top guys and settling for a punt option like Will Middlebrooks will allow you spend more generously elsewhere.
2014 Projections: .264/.299/.466, 22 HR, 71 RBI, 59 R, 5 SB