Will Middlebrooks was a consensus top-100 prospect going into the 2012 season and he did not disappoint, blasting 15 home runs with an .835 OPS in 286 plate appearances in the big leagues. He wasn’t nearly as good last season, slashing .227/.271/.425. As it turns out, Middlebrooks’ deteriorating vision might have been at least partially to blame for the lack of offensive output.
As Brian MacPherson writes for the Providence Journal, the Red Sox found this spring that Middlebrooks was seeing 20-25 in his right eye and 20-30 in his left. It’s nothing serious, but having his vision corrected with contact lenses allowed him to once again see the spin on the ball.
“For everyday life, you’d never correct it,” he said. “But for what I do, you need to be able to see the little things. Once I put them in, I could really see the spin on the ball. I was always just reading trajectory of the ball. I was never seeing the spin.”
Middlebrooks was careful not to use his vision as a crutch, explaining why he wasn’t so good last season. The 25-year-old third baseman said, “I wasn’t consistent with my approach and my way of thinking at the plate. That has nothing to do with my vision. That’s just decision-making. But it’s easier when you can see things.”
With Stephen Drew gone, prospect Xander Bogaerts takes over everyday at shortstop, leaving Middlebrooks with plenty of playing time at third base. The Red Sox hope that the opportunity along with the enhanced vision translates to a big season for Middlebrooks.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Phillies signed pitcher Henderson Alvarez to a minor league deal. If he is added to the major league roster, he’ll earn $750,000 prorated.
Alvarez is still only 27 years old but hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2015 due to shoulder issues. He signed with the Long Island Ducks last month, making seven starts and posting a 3.94 ERA with a 13/14 K/BB ratio in 32 innings.
The Phillies learned that Vince Velasquez will undergo season-ending surgery and also placed Zach Eflin on the 10-day disabled list, so the club is just looking for pitching depth to help take them through the end of the season. Any innings that Alvarez is able to handle will be considered a bonus.
Mets third baseman David Wright will begin a minor league rehab assignment Tuesday with High-A St. Lucie. He’ll be the DH.
Wright has been sidelined since May of 2016, first with a cervical disc herniation and, more recently, a shoulder impingement. He has appeared in just 75 games since his last full season in 2014. Wright is under contract through 2020 and is owed $47 million after this year. For now insurance is picking up a large portion of that.
It’s possible he’ll make a return to the Mets before the season out as the competitive portion of their year is basically over and giving him a chance to see big league pitching before he begins what one hopes is a normal offseason might be a good confidence boost. What meaningful role he ever plays in the big leagues again, however, is decidedly up in the air.