Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox: Nice rookie season, kid. Middlebrooks made an immediate impact when he was called up early in 2012, taking the third base job from veteran Kevin Youkilis with an offensive punch that could not be denied. The 6-foot-4 righthanded slugger jumped out to a .331 average with 9 home runs in his first 124 at-bats. The 24-year-old rookie predictably slumped after Youkilis was shipped to Chicago and was batting .288/.325/.509 with 15 home runs in 75 games before breaking his wrist on Aug. 11. Middlebrooks said he feels “100 percent” recovered from his fractured right wrist and is looking to avoid a sophomore slump in 2013.
Kevin Youkilis, Yankees: With the possibility that Alex Rodriguez could miss the entire 2013 season due to surgery the third baseman had to repair a torn labrum and impingement in his left hip, Yankees GM Brian Cashman went out and signed Kevin Youkilis to fill in at third. Youk will also play some first base, just as he did in Boston, with journeyman Jayson Nix getting playing time at third base as well. The former Red Sox hard-nosed infielder, soon to turn 34-years-old, finds himself in the thick of the a Yankees lineup decimated by injuries. As former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine would be happy to inform you, Youk hit .236 after being traded to White Sox in June. He had batted .233 in 42 games for the Red Sox before the trade. His offense appears on the decline, hitting .258/.373/.459 and .235/.336/.409 over the last two seasons, and his injury-prone body could take a beating in a full season manning third.
The edge: Red Sox. Middlebrooks is on the rise and Youk has been on a steady decline no matter who his manager is.