Will Middlebrooks is currently ranked the 25th best prospect in the Red Sox farm system. 20 years old, Middlebrooks is currently in Mid-A Greenville, hitting for a .265/.343/.424 line. Excepting first basemen, he is the fourth best infield prospect in the system.
Will took some time out of his schedule to answer a couple questions for Fire Brand. You'll be interested in his answers...
Statistically, you had a tough introduction to pro ball last year in Lowell. You moved a level up and seem to have really improved your plate discipline as well as cranking out some more home runs. What happened? Was it simply an adjustment period, or did you specifically work on an aspect of your game that is paying off?
Last year I came into the season without a plan or an approach at the plate, mainly because in high school you don't need one. Once you reach this level, the talent of the pitchers is high enough where you have to be smarter. Pitchers throw any pitch anytime for strikes now, so I got with my hitting coach and started to develop an approach at the plate.
It was definitely a slow process... it's not something you just say you're gonna do and you do it your next at bat... its something you have to consistently work into your cage work, batting practice, then translate that in to the game situations. The last month of last year and this year it's finally starting to become a habit and results started to come from that.
What would you say is the toughest adjustment to the game you have had? (On or off the field.)
The toughest adjustment so far has been the grind of playing and practicing every day and being able to play at the highest level you can day in and day out. Some days you just have to trick yourself into thinking your legs feel good—at least for three or four hours.
What do you need to accomplish to move up to Salem? Have the Red Sox asked you to work on anything specific?
It's nothing specific they have told me to work on; just my overall game. Right now every level I go to is a learning process for me: new coaches, some new teammates. Every year I learn more and more and that also contributes to success on and off the field. So it's no rush. Of course I would love to go up, but I want to make the most out of each year and each place I play at.
Who would you say has influenced you the most so far as a professional ballplayer and why?
So far in my professional career my hitting coach in Lowell, Luis Lopez, is who has influenced me the most. He helped me with my foundation for hitting and my plan at the plate, but this year Kevin Boles, our manager in Greenville, has taught me how to be a professional.
Not only does he tell us how to act on and off the field but he demonstrates it everyday. I love playing for him, because I feel like I come away from the field every day with something to put in the back of my mind that I can always use.
Who on the Drive would you advise Sox fans to keep on an eye on and why?
Mitch Dening. Not one of the top prospects in the organization, but overall one of the best players I've ever played with. On and off the field he's a great guy, fun to play with and is going to play in the big leagues, no doubt in my mind.
You've got yourself a 14-game hitting streak [as of July 31]. You think you got a chance to catch the guy who hit in 45 straight earlier this year? :)
Haha... that's not even on my mind. Hitting streak or no hitting streak, I'm going to the plate with the same plan and approach. If i get a hit out of it, great. If not, nothing will change. I'm going to fail with my plan and succeed with my plan. The plan is the only constant there-- once the ball leaves the bat, it's out of my control.
Seriously, though, what have you been doing lately to get this hitting streak? You just came off a 3-for-4 night so it seems like you keep getting better as the season goes on. What's started to click?
Balls are just finding gaps and holes... I just keep doing my job swinging at good pitches to hit, that's all I can do.
What do you do in your off time? Read, hang out with friends, watch tv, etc. How do you unwind away from the game?
To unwind my roommates [Mitch Dening, Pete Hissey, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Jared Stanley] and I just sit around watch TV, eat, talk baseball. A lot of people would probably say "Why would you talk about baseball since you do it all day?" ...Well for one thing, that's whats always on our minds, haha... and we like to evaluate each other. Hearing someone else's perspective is good for you. You can learn a lot from teammates.