You guys are never going to believe this, but Kevin Youkilis is hurt. Stunning news. Unforeseeable. A total gut-punch. Youkilis has been an iron man this season (by his standards), appearing in 18 of Boston's 23 games. You can't ask for much more than that, right? No, of course you can't.
But the constant grind of playing three out of every four games for an entire month has finally caught up with the 33-year-old Youkilis. He's been sidelined recently with a lower back strain, a worrisome injury for a guy who visited the disabled list with back trouble last season. Nick Punto has been forced into the Red Sox lineup, which is ... well, it's not ideal. Let's just leave it at that.
If Youks out of action for an extended period of time, then 23-year-old prospect Will Middlebrooks is likely to get the call — perhaps as early as Wednesday according to various reports. (Here's Alex Speier's take, here's Gordon Edes). Middlebrooks has terrorized International League pitchers this season, hitting .333/.380/.677 with nine homers, 27 RBIs and three steals. Baseball America ranked him as the No. 1 prospect in Boston's system entering 2012, and so far the kid looks the part. He's crushing both lefties and righties, hitting well at home and on the road.
Based on the likelihood of a call-up, Middlebrooks is a player worth adding in any mixed league of respectable size. He certainly deserves an add in, say, a 12-team mixed format that uses a Corner Infield spot. There's a lot to like with Middlebrooks — respectable power included — and he'll get regular at-bats when promoted. The Red Sox absolutely need to see him perform at the major league level at some point this season, because the front office faces big roster decisions in the near future, with Youkilis in an option year.
We're not promising immediate success for Middlebrooks, just for the record. There are some flaws apparent here, as he drew only 26 free passes last season in 116 games, and he whiffed 114 times. But given the recent outbreak of injuries at third base (Longoria, Beltre, Youkilis), many of you are no doubt looking to make a move, and not everyone can add Chris Davis (48 percent owned and climbing).
Middlebrooks is long-gone in competitive AL-only leagues and dynasty formats, so we won't bother to address those owners. If you're in a deep mixer and need assistance at the corner, kick the tires. Embrace the potential, accept the risk.