Should You Grab Will Middlebrooks Yet?

Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks (64) hits a grand slam against the Baltimore Orioles during the fifth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

Just 17 plate appearances into his big-league career, third baseman Will Middlebrooks is hitting .333/.353/.625 with a pair of doubles and a home run. He's struck out three times against one walk, and has played well defensively, too, although that doesn't mean much to you, Potential Owner.

Middlebrooks is a highly-touted prospect, up in the majors and performing in the short time he's been there. But that doesn't mean he's here to stay; he's playing while Kevin Youkilis is on the disabled list, waiting for his back injury to heal.

This isn't the same thing as saying that Middlebrooks is guaranteed to be sent back down in another week or so, once Youkilis is able to head back to the hot corner on a daily basis. If Middlebrooks continues to hit like crazy, and doesn't appear over-matched, the Red Sox might decide that he's ready now, and it will be time to see which teams want Youkilis as a DH or a first baseman, in a deal that will likely cost Boston money or net them little in the way of return.

There's only an outside chance of that, though, as a healthy Youkilis is a productive one. If he comes back off of the disabled list and is feeling good, the Red Sox will (rightfully) weigh his productive and lengthy past against the two weeks of hitting Will Middlebrooks did. Chances are good that Boston isn't going to just dump Youkilis to rush the future onto the diamond now, especially since Middlebrooks has all of a month of Triple-A under his belt, and is going to be around for the next six years regardless.

Middlebrooks could always be called up later if it turns out that Youkilis has indeed aged to the point of being unproductive. That makes him someone you're better off stashing right now, not your brand-new third baseman for the rest of 2012. Why should you bother stashing him, though?

Middlebrooks had made slight progress in the minors each season he was there, gradually reducing his strikeout rates, improving his discipline, and adding power in the form of doubles. In 2011, he set a career-high in homers, and without sacrificing the strike zone control he had developed over the years. If you've been paying attention to the hype in 2012, you know Middlebrooks had one of the most productive starts of anyone this year, bashing nine homers in just 24 games and 100 plate appearances at Triple-A Pawtucket.

He's Boston's third baseman of the future, and if Youkilis turns out to be a problem, then he's the third baseman of the present, too. Stash him now, but don't drop your current third baseman, as you might regret it when he's sent back down in a few weeks.

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