Bill James is among those who believe Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks is poised for a breakout season in 2014.
James, a senior adviser in the Red Sox’s baseball operations department who also happens to be the father of sabermetrics, publishes an annual reference guide that includes both statistical data from the previous season and projections for the upcoming season. James projected in this year’s version that Middlebrooks will slug 32 homers, compile 104 RBIs and post an .800 OPS in 2014.
Obviously, that prediction is bold given that Middlebrooks is coming off a poor season in which he was demoted in the middle of the year and lost his starting third base job to Xander Bogaerts during the playoffs. James’ work is rooted in analytics, though, so the projection isn’t something to completely toss aside as blind faith.
The Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber checked with James to make sure his Middlebrooks projection wasn’t a misprint, and the numbers indeed reflect James’ expectations for the 25-year-old. The production certainly would be an upgrade over 2013 — when Middlebrooks hit 17 homers, drove in 49 runs and posted a .696 OPS in 94 regular-season games — and more in line with the potential the third baseman displayed during his rookie campaign in 2012.
James also predicted in this year’s handbook that David Ortiz will enjoy another 30-homer season, Jon Lester will win 14 games and Bogaerts will hit 19 dingers with an .807 OPS.