Boston's farm system has been a source of debate for quite a few seasons now. While they've turned out some great product, it seems there's always more hype surrounding players than there should be.
The same could be said for Will Middlebrooks entering 2012. Only thing is, he's proving he's the real deal. Sometimes players deserve the hype.
So, here's a look back at 15 of Boston's most hyped and heralded prospects of all time.
Carlton Fisk was one of the first big prospects to come out of the early Boston Red Sox drafts.
Taken within the first round of the 1967 draft, Pudge had an underwhelming .787 OPS in the minors, but showed a lot of power with his 44 home runs.
Fisk would go on to become one of the most famous Sox to ever play behind the dish—not to mention he hit one of the most memorable home runs in baseball history.
Skip ahead four years and we get to Jim Rice.
Even as a 19-year-old, Rice showed massive potential. In four minor-league seasons he hit .307/.350/.534 with 78 home runs and 190 RBI.
Rice made his major-league debut in 1974, beginning a 16-year career that would see one MVP award, eight All-Star appearances, two playoff appearances and an eventual Hall of Fame induction.
Joining Jim Rice is the other "Gold Dust Twin," Fred Lynn.
Lynn was a natural from the get-go, needing only two years of seasoning in the minors.
Despite a 1974 debut, Lynn didn't become a full-time player until 1975. That was a magical year for the 23-year-old, making an All-Star appearance and winning the Rookie of the Year, MVP and Gold Glove awards.
With their seventh-round pick of the 1976 draft, the Boston Red Sox selected a left-handed high schooler named Wade Boggs. What a pick that was.
Though Boggs never showed much power, he showed a penchant for hitting. The third baseman hit .318 in the minors, walking two-and-a-half more times than he struck out.
Boggs would go on to hit .328 in the majors, recording over 3,000 hits and winning five batting titles.
Roger Clemens is perhaps the most infamous pitching prospect to ever come out of the Boston Red Sox farm system.
The Rocket was completely dominant in his early years, posting a 1.63 ERA and 5.75 K/BB between two minor-league stops.
Clemens would eventually make his Boston debut as a 21-year-old. That was the beginning of a seven-time Cy Young-winning career.
Though he hadn't developed his power yet—Bagwell had six home runs in the Sox system—he knew how to hit, posting an .840 OPS in two minor-league seasons.
Bagwell would eventually be traded to Houston for reliever Larry Andersen. He would go on to hit .297/.408/.540 with 449 home runs and 1,529 RBI in his career, but I'm sure it was well worth the 15 innings the Sox got from Andersen.
Before becoming one of the most famous Red Sox infielders of all time, Nomar was a prospect.
Garciaparra showed a great balance of power and speed in the minors, hitting 25 home runs and stealing 43 bases before getting his chance with the big-league club.
No-mah would go on to the win the 1997 Rookie of the Year. That was just the beginning of his storied career.
Boston wouldn't have another prospect to get really excited about until 2000, in which they signed international free agent Hanley Ramirez.
Han-Ram would go on to be considered one of the best prospects in the Boston Red Sox farm system, let alone one of the best in baseball. Though his minor-league numbers were never outstanding, everyone knew the potential was there.
Ramirez would go on to be traded to the Florida Marlins for Josh Beckett.
Drafted as a starting pitcher in the fourth round of the 2003 draft, Jonathan Papelbon was one of Theo Epstein's first—and best—draft picks.
Pap was dominant in the minors and was eventually called up to make spot starts after just three years of seasoning.
With injuries aplenty, Papelbon was eventually asked to close in 2006. He posted a 0.92 ERA with 35 saves that season, losing out on Rookie of the Year honors to a 17-game winner named Justin Verlander.
Perhaps the biggest international signee the Sox ever made, Matsuzaka was certainly a hyped prospect.
Heads turned when Dice-K decided to leave Japan to play ball in the U.S., and the Boston Red Sox decided they wanted him on their roster. The Sox brass posted over $50 million just to talk to the pitcher, and eventually signed him for $52 million.
While D-Mat helped the Sox win the 2007 World Series, he has since succumb to a slew of injury and control issues.
Clay Buchholz made a steady climb through the Sox system, and was always seen as a pitcher with phenomenal promise.
That potential was magnified in Buchholz's second start of his career, in which he threw a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles. That was enough for Red Sox Nation to crown him the next great Sox pitcher.
Buchholz's career has been up-and-down since, and he's certainly in a lull right now.
Boston went a long time with some great pitching prospects. But, after trading Han-Ram, it had been a long time since Boston had seen a true middle-of-the-order prospect.
Enter Lars Anderson.
The big lefty was seen as the next David Ortiz, hitting .304/.405/.482 with 29 home runs and 158 RBI in his first two minor-league seasons.
While Anderson still shows some power promise, he's yet to find the patience and contact that made him a stud prospect four years ago.
The Casey Kelly decision was one of the biggest in Sox prospect history. Drafted as a shortstop and starting pitcher, he had the potential to end the SS curse or become the next staff ace.
After going 7-5 with a 2.08 ERA and 0.853 WHIP, Boston decided to bank on the latter.
While he demonstrated great upside, Kelly was eventually traded to San Diego as the centerpiece for Adrian Gonzalez.
Signed as a defector out of Cuba, Iglesias was never projected as a great major-league hitter. He was, however, projected as an immediate Gold Glove defender.
No matter how you value defense, that was never why Red Sox fans got so excited about Iglesias. After a revolving door of shortstops—spanning nine different players since 2004—Iglesias has been heralded as the shortstop of the future.
While the bat has been slow to develop, Iglesias still carries a tremendous amount of promise and hype.
Now we get to the man of the hour.
Drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 draft, Will Middlebrooks has cemented himself as one of Boston's best prospects.
Though he had a slow start to his minor-league career, Middlebrooks broke out in 2011. Last season the 22-year-old hit .285/.328/.506 with 23 home runs across three different stops in the Sox system.
After a raging start to 2012, a Kevin Youkilis injury opened the doors for Middlebrooks. In just 13 games with Boston, he has four home runs—tacked on top of his nine minor-league ones—14 RBI and two stolen bases.