The Case For Will Middlebrooks:
If I told you that you could draft an MLB 3B who in 169 games had hit 32 HR, drove in 103 runs, scored 75 runs, added 7 steals and you would have to suffer a bit with a 0.254 average, outside of the first 12 rounds of your draft, you might think I was kidding. Or you might think that this player was on the downside of their career. Well, that player is 25-year old Will Middlebrooks. Sure, as a Red Sox fan I have watched the sometimes painful slumps that Middlebrooks has endured. I saw him demoted to AAA last season, where by the way he managed a 0.268 average with 10 HR in 45 games. Sure, he was often benched in the playoffs in favor of uber-prospect Xander Bogaerts, but 2014 should be different.
The 3B job is Middlebrooks for the taking. Boegarts should be the every day SS for the Red Sox, there seems to be waning interest in resigning Stephen Drew. Middlebrooks has legit 20 HR power (heck he hit 17 last year), with the potential to hit even more. His MLB ISO is around 0.2, which is in line with what Adrian Beltre put up in 2013, when he hit 30 homers.
Middlebrooks struggled last year partly due to a poor BABIP. His BABIP was 0.263. I think much of this was due to balance at the plate and maybe some mental things he was going through. His peripheral stats, including numbers like O-Swing % (percentage of balls outside of the zone swung at) and Z-Contact % (percentage of contact made on balls thrown inside the strike zone) remained relatively constant between his impressive 2012 call-up and his 2013 disappointment. A little more luck comes Middlebrooks way in 2014, and you are looking at a slugging 3B in a deep lineup, with plenty of opportunity to produce.
The Case For Mike Moustakas:
Moustakas is another 25-year old 3B who you can draft very late in your draft and expect solid production. I may have gone out on more of a limb predicting 25 homers from him than Middlebrooks because over his career Middlebrooks has shown more power. Moustakas has hit 37 HR in 374 MLB games. He did launch 20 HR in 2012, but suffered a power outage in 2013, hitting only 12.
Moustakas improved his K-rate from 2012 to 2013, dropping it 4% (20 to 16). However, his average also suffered due to a low BABIP of 0.257. His groundball rate increased nearly 3% while his flyball rate fell nearly 4%. Where in 2012 he hit HR 9% of his flyballs, in 2013 this was only 6.9%. Moustakas also suffered from bad luck. He swung at less pitches outside of the strike zone, and made contact with more pitches inside the zone.
While I do not expect a year like his 2010 to repeat (Moustakas hit 36 HR between AA/AAA that year), I do expect to see a rebound in power in 2014. Looking at his splits from 2013, there is reason for optimism. Moustakas hit 6 HR before the AS break and 6 HR after the break. However, his batting average improved nearly 45 points after the break. His Slugging Percentage went up nearly 90 points, and his ISO increased by 44 points. He had a 0.302 BABIP over the second half of the season compared to a 0.228 in the first half. Moustakas still needs to refine his approach at the plate. The lefty is a dead pull hitter. In 2013 he hit all 12 of his HR to right field. If he can adjust and use more of the ballpark, this will help him get better pitches to pull into HR.
So, if you miss out on one of the elite 3B in your draft (Miggy, Beltre, Wright, Longoria), or you don’t want to suffer with the poor batting average of Pedro Alvarez, or you don’t trust Brett Lawrie to rebound (by the way, he is only 24-years old), or you are not sold on Josh Donaldson (he is the real deal), or maybe you play in a league with CI slots and you need to have a 2nd 3B on your roster, remember Will Middlebrooks and Mike Moustakas. Currently these guys are being selected 25th and 26th among 3B in mock drafts on Couchmanagers. These guys are deals. I would much rather own them than David Freese. I would rather use the pick I need to select Pablo Sandoval or Aramis Ramirez to draft some pitching, and then grab Middlebrooks or Moustakas sometime after the 10th round.
All statistics were found at Fangraphs.com