Will Middlebrooks could have been in contention for the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2012 if he had played more than 75 games.
That alone should tell you that the 24-year-old is a key to the success of the 2013 Boston Red Sox squad.
Picture this: His numbers were solid with a .288 average, 15 home runs and 54 RBI in 75 games. Double those, and he could arguably hit 30 homers and drive in 108 RBI in 150 games.
Yes, this may be looking into things a tad much, but with a healthy 150-game season he would be able to replace the numbers from Adrian Gonzalez and an aging David Ortiz from the third base position alone.
There's always the risk of a sophomore slump for the third baseman, but having the last month or so off could actually give him an advantage. Scouts weren't really able to look at his weaknesses in September, so he may still be able to rake against opposing pitching, even in the dreaded AL East.
Although this is just his second season, the Red Sox will be relying heavily on Middlebrooks to produce in key situations. He was able to do this until his injury in August—the injury that just about took the Red Sox out of contention.
How many home runs will Middlebrooks hit in 2013?
If he had been playing, the Red Sox could have won at least 75 or so games instead of the paltry 69 wins with which they finished 2012.
The rehab may have been long for Middlebrooks, but he will be fully healthy and ready to lead the Red Sox in 2013. His new No. 16 jersey will be flying off the shelves, and he will be on this team for years to come.
He may be just one part of the team, but he is one of the biggest keys to the puzzle that is the 2013 Red Sox.
If he can put together 30 home runs and 100 RBI next season, then expect the Red Sox to at least contend for that second wild-card spot.
If not, the Red Sox will have to wait until 2014.