With as many high-priced, well-known players as the Red Sox have, finding a player to call an x-factor might be a little tough. Ortiz, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Victorino, Lester, Buchholz…all of these guys are expected to be key parts of the team in 2013.
My x-factor for the Boston Red Sox in 2013 is Will Middlebrooks.
Alright, I don't know how much of an x-factor Middlebrooks really is. I mean, he's pretty well-known after a breakout 2012 rookie season with Boston. However, his three month tear through the majors ended in August with a broken wrist. That's an injury that can impact a player past the initial recovery stage, and despite Middlebrooks claiming he's fully healthy, I wouldn't be surprised to see him struggle out of the gate, especially with his power.
Speaking of Middlebrooks' power, that was the most impressive aspect of his 2012 season. He hit 15 homers in 286 plate appearances, and his .221 ISO was third on the team behind David Ortiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. But again, the wrist injury could have a big effect on his power going forth in 2013. Another thing that could affect Middlebrooks' power in 2013 is how unsustainable his power was last season. 21.4% of Middlebrooks' fly balls last season went over the fence, which is twice the league norm and something you'd expect to level out over time.
There also could be a huge drop in Middlebrooks' production going forth when looking at his walk and strikeout rates. In 2012, Middlebrooks struck out 70 times, and walked only 13 times. Not only did he whiff more than the league average, he also made less contact. That aggressive approach is something that could doom him going forth, and keep in mind that Middlebrooks did see his OPS go down in each of the parts of four months he was in the majors last season. The Red Sox are counting on him to be a huge part of their offense, but without some tweaks to his game this season, he could end up disappointing everyone in Boston.