Padres Will Have A Battle For The Third Base Job
By Jason Evans
Among the flurry of deals A.J. Preller has made this off-season, he sent Ryan Hanigan to the Boston Red Sox for third baseman Will Middlebrooks. The 26-year old came up with the Red Sox in 2012 and hit .288 with 15 homers and 54 RBI. In 2013, his averaged dipped to .227 with 17 homers and 49 RBI.
Last year was a disaster. In just 63 games, he hit .191 with just two homers. The Sox then signed Pablo Sandoval to man the hot corner and it made Middlebrooks expendable.
Yangervis Solarte was a revelation his first month of the season. A non-roster invitee for the Yankees, he came up and played a respectable third base after taking over the job. Eventually, like all rookies he slowed down and was traded to the Padres for Chase Headley.
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Solarte had similar numbers with the Pads. He finished with a .260/.336/.369 with 10 homers and 48 RBI in his rookie season.
These are the two that will compete for the spot and don’t be surprised if Solarte wins the job. At this point what is Middlebrooks? Did he just need a change of scenery to rebound to what he was his rookie year? Or is he a bust?
If Middlebrooks performs well in spring training, he can easily wrestle away the job.
According to Fangraphs projections, Solarte is a .6 WAR while Middlebrooks is .5. Basically no difference between the two players.
Solarte can play all over the infield and some outfield, which could make him an attractive option off the bench since he’s flexible. Middlebrooks is just a corners guy, though he does a have a career .261 average against lefties with a .758 OPS which could have him push Yonder Alonso for time at first.
Third base will be a position to watch all spring. Don’t assume Middlebrooks will be manning the hot corner on Opening Day. Keep an eye on Solarte too.