clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Royals trade target: Will Middlebrooks

New, 24 comments

The once top prospect, is now possibly without a position.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

When the first sentence of your argument includes "just hear me out" it probably means it isn't a great argument. Having said that, just hear me out: Will Middlebrooks.

With the Red Sox acquiring both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, they have no room for Middlebrooks at third base. Meanwhile, a move to the outfield is out of the question for him as well given their depth there. That means he's either having to move to first base and somehow try to find at-bats along side Mike Napoli and Allen Craig (which also isn't happening) or he'll be in a different uniform come April.

Middlebrooks was once a fairly high regarded prospect. He's a true third baseman with a strong arm and good range which allowed the bat some room to grow and improve. He has above-average bat speed which coupled with his size brought above-average power to the plate. The concerns with him were inability to make contact and plate discipline.

That's one thing I want to address with Middlebrooks: plate discipline. I often see him pegged as an aggressive hitter who is swing-happy, but I don't know if I buy that truly.

Below you'll find the plate discipline figures for hitters from 2010-2014 with a minimum of 850 PA (minimum number to include Middlebrooks) with similar plate discipline profiles as Middlebrooks:

Name O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr% K%
Ryan Ludwick 31.90% 73.20% 50.60% 59.70% 83.20% 75.10% 45.40% 61.60% 12.20% 21.90%
Curtis Granderson 27.20% 63.40% 42.30% 59.90% 85.40% 75.90% 41.80% 55.70% 10.00% 24.60%
Marlon Byrd 39.30% 72.50% 54.60% 59.90% 86.60% 76.20% 46.10% 65.90% 12.70% 21.60%
Carlos Gomez 38.40% 76.20% 55.20% 60.10% 84.40% 75.00% 44.50% 66.80% 13.40% 23.00%
Lucas Duda 27.00% 61.30% 40.70% 60.10% 86.10% 75.80% 40.00% 55.30% 9.60% 23.20%
Nelson Cruz 31.10% 71.10% 49.60% 60.30% 81.30% 74.20% 46.20% 59.00% 12.50% 21.40%
Jason Bay 26.20% 60.90% 42.30% 60.80% 82.00% 75.00% 46.50% 58.00% 10.30% 23.50%
Average of the group 31.59% 68.37% 47.90% 60.11% 84.14% 75.31% 44.36% 60.33% 11.53% 22.74%
MLB Average 30.60% 65.06% 46.18% 66.76% 87.50% 80.00% 45.26% 59.78% 8.98% 19.44%
Will Middlebrooks 29.80% 62.50% 44.80% 60.80% 83.30% 75.20% 46.10% 59.30% 10.90% 26.60%

Things to notice:

  • Middlebrooks O-Swing% is about 1% below the MLB average from 2010-2014 and 2% below the group
  • His Z-Swing% is well below average and even more so the group
  • His Swing% is well below average and even more so the group
  • His O-Contact% is well below the MLB average and slightly better than the group
  • His Z-Contact% is well below the MLB average and worse than the group
  • His contact% is well below the MLB average and near the group
  • His SwingStrk% is above the MLB average but below the group
  • His K% is well above the MLB average and the group

So it looks like Middlebrooks isn't a free swinger as maybe his reputation would display, but perhaps his high K% is due to him not swinging as he's getting an above average amount of pitches in the zone, but swings at a well below average amount of zone pitches.

Even among guys with similar plate discipline percentages, Middlebrooks career K% is nearly 4% above the group and seems to be an outlier.

Now, the main sort criteria by the above group was Contact%. So anybody who wasn't near (~1%)  Middlebrooks in Contact% was automatically eliminated.

Looking at the data again, let's try using Swing% as the sort criteria, so we'll narrow it to players with a similar Swing% as Middlebrooks then eliminate others from there.

Name O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr% K%
Franklin Gutierrez 30.80% 61.30% 45.10% 63.40% 85.10% 77.20% 46.80% 56.60% 9.90% 20.70%
Trevor Plouffe 29.20% 61.80% 44.40% 66.10% 87.10% 79.80% 46.80% 62.70% 8.90% 20.60%
Paul Konerko 28.70% 61.90% 44.20% 66.30% 89.10% 81.20% 46.70% 58.20% 8.00% 15.60%
Welington Castillo 29.80% 61.90% 45.00% 57.70% 89.10% 78.10% 47.30% 58.00% 9.70% 24.40%
Alex Rios 30.90% 61.90% 45.50% 72.50% 92.70% 85.40% 47.10% 57.60% 6.50% 15.10%
Billy Butler 29.70% 62.20% 44.40% 71.10% 89.90% 83.00% 45.30% 56.30% 7.30% 14.60%
Placido Polanco 28.90% 62.20% 45.20% 83.50% 95.70% 91.70% 48.90% 58.70% 3.60% 7.90%
Peter Bourjos 30.00% 62.40% 45.40% 57.30% 87.10% 76.70% 47.40% 64.50% 10.30% 23.00%
Angel Pagan 29.90% 62.60% 44.50% 79.40% 93.90% 88.50% 44.50% 57.20% 5.00% 13.60%
Andres Torres 29.80% 63.40% 44.40% 64.20% 87.80% 78.80% 43.50% 58.10% 9.20% 22.00%
Cody Ross 30.00% 63.40% 45.30% 68.40% 85.90% 79.60% 45.80% 58.70% 9.00% 20.70%
John Mayberry 29.70% 63.50% 45.10% 62.00% 85.70% 77.20% 45.50% 58.30% 10.10% 22.00%
Average of the group 29.78% 62.38% 44.88% 67.66% 89.09% 81.43% 46.30% 58.74% 8.13% 18.35%
MLB average 30.60% 65.06% 46.18% 66.76% 87.50% 80.00% 45.26% 59.78% 8.98% 19.44%
Will Middlebrooks 29.80% 62.50% 44.80% 60.80% 83.30% 75.20% 46.10% 59.30% 10.90% 26.60%

Things to notice:

  • Middlebrooks O-Swing% is about 1% below the MLB average from 2010-2014 and average to the group
  • His Z-Swing% is well below average and slightly above the group
  • His Swing% is well below average and average to the group
  • His O-Contact% is well below the MLB average and well below the group
  • His Z-Contact% is well below the MLB average and even worse than the group
  • His contact% is well below the MLB average and even worse than the group
  • His SwingStrk% is above the MLB average and the group
  • His K% is well above the MLB average and even more so the group
So even among players with basically the same Swing% and O-Swing%, Middlebrooks still has an extremely high K% compared to the group.

O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr% K%
MLB average 30.60% 65.06% 46.18% 66.76% 87.50% 80.00% 45.26% 59.78% 8.98% 19.44%
Will Middlebrooks 29.80% 62.50% 44.80% 60.80% 83.30% 75.20% 46.10% 59.30% 10.90% 26.60%
Difference from average -0.80% -2.56% -1.38% -5.96% -4.20% -4.80% 0.84% -0.48% 1.92% 7.16%

How about looking at BB%?

Name O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% K% BB%
Howie Kendrick 35.00% 64.70% 49.20% 66.40% 89.20% 80.70% 17.40% 5.30%
Chris Heisey 34.30% 71.10% 51.70% 62.70% 81.90% 75.20% 22.80% 5.30%
Dayan Viciedo 39.20% 70.60% 52.50% 66.30% 83.30% 76.00% 21.60% 5.30%
Eduardo Nunez 35.40% 62.90% 48.10% 78.40% 92.60% 87.00% 12.80% 5.40%
Josh Rutledge 32.70% 65.10% 48.20% 61.50% 89.30% 79.40% 21.00% 5.40%
Carl Crawford 36.10% 71.20% 51.70% 74.80% 88.90% 83.40% 16.20% 5.40%
Wilson Valdez 37.80% 67.20% 52.00% 70.40% 93.10% 84.60% 13.80% 5.40%
Danny Valencia 30.50% 58.10% 43.50% 63.80% 88.20% 79.20% 18.20% 5.50%
Darwin Barney 31.80% 61.70% 46.70% 83.60% 93.70% 90.20% 11.40% 5.50%
Daniel Murphy 32.70% 66.10% 47.20% 80.30% 93.90% 88.60% 12.80% 5.50%
Matt Adams 38.70% 66.80% 49.90% 66.40% 89.30% 78.60% 22.40% 5.50%
Average of the group 34.93% 65.95% 49.15% 70.42% 89.40% 82.08% 17.31% 5.41%
Will Middlebrooks 29.80% 62.50% 44.80% 60.80% 83.30% 75.20% 26.60% 5.40%

Middlebrooks career averages aren't even close to the group averages. His plate discipline profile is confusing to be honest and I'm not sure what to make of it. I don't believe that he is as free swinging as his reputation has been believed to be but instead his issue has been making contact when he does swing. Perhaps even given his Z-Swing% he isn't swinging enough.

For 2015, Steamer600 does believe that Middlebrooks K% will drop by almost 4% from 2014, but not due to an increase in walks.

Name PA AB 2B HR BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
Will Middlebrooks 600 553 26 22 5.7% 25.2% 0.248 0.295 0.420 97 1.9

Now that fWAR comes at the prediction that he 3B for those 600 PA, something he won't do for the Royals likely.

Middlebrooks recently said he's open to playing somewhere other than 3B (like he has a choice) and that 1B/DH would be fine with him. He doesn't hit either handed pitcher well (102 wRC+ vs lefties, 77 wRC+ vs righties) but has been much better against left handers. He's got below average footspeed so don't expect much defensively if you put him in RF.

You're buying the upside on Middlebrooks that he can start making more contact and bring his raw power into the game, something he's certainly done in the past. He'd make a reasonable DH platoon piece.

Yearly vs left handers:

PA wRC+
2012 90 140
2013 110 111
2014 57 18

Last year was certainly a disaster for him, but prior to that he hit left handers well and in 2014 he struggled with injuries.

Middlebrooks cost should be reasonably cheap coming off a down year and suddenly finding himself without a position in Boston. Right field could be a home to him as he has a very strong arm, but his range would be below average. Of course, if he'd platoon with Dyson you would be limiting to the total defensive liability.

The Royals are notorious for their ability to make contact and maybe a few tweaks in his mechanics could get him to the ball earlier or maybe he could be more aggressive at the plate, especially on pitches in the zone.

Like most the players being thrown around to platoon for the Royals (like Blanks, Denorfia etc...) you shouldn't necessarily be going into the season expecting them to be your sole option for 2015, but either one of many or enter spring training and see who wins out.