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Will Middlebrooks making his case

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  April 24, 2012 12:02 PM

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MINNEAPOLIS What's not to like about Will Middlebrooks?

He's hitting .371/.413/.757 in 18 games for Triple A Pawtucket with eight home runs and 25 RBIs. He's 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, and plays an excellent third base.

Heck, he's even engaged to a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and one of his best friends is Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett. At 23, Middlebrooks seems to have everything going his way.

So when does he get to the big leagues?

Not so fast.

Kevin Youkilis is not a player you dismiss with a wave of the hand because a 23-year-old has had a great few weeks. This is a career .288 hitter with an .878 OPS who has played hard every minute he has been in a Red Sox uniform. If after nine years in the majors Middlebrooks has those numbers and that reputation, he will have done quite well for himself.

The rash would say, "Trade him!" OK, to whom and for what? Youkilis has $10.88 million remaining on his deal for 2012 and a $1 million buyout for 2013. There is literally not a team out there that will take on $11.88 million.

Beyond that, he is 33 and off to a .174/.250/.283 start. Trading him now would be at pretty much the low point of his value. The Sox would not get much back and would have to chow down on a lot of that money.

It's nice to think some team out there will take Youkilis and give you back a power arm to fix the bullpen. But that's unlikely.

There is no moving Youkilis to DH, not with David Ortiz around. The outfield? He tried that a few times (not since 2009) and the results weren't pretty.

Shifting Middlebrooks to the outfield seems to make little sense, especially if the plan is to make him the full-time third baseman in 2013.

Splitting time at third base seems like a waste. They're both righthanded hitters and why have the kid give up at-bats at this stage of his career?

History says Youkilis will hit his marks and produce. If he's not a month from now, Middlebrooks will really have a compelling case.

But for now, have patience. Ryan Howard spent a few years destroying the International League because the Phillies had Jim Thome around. Youkilis spent a lot of time at Pawtucket in 2005 because the Sox liked what they had in Bill Mueller.

These things sort themselves out, they always do.

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