May 4, 2012 at 2:28 AM
April's SoxProspects.com Player and Pitcher of the Month honorees Matt Barnes and Will Middlebrooks presented us with what amounted to a fait accompli, they were a pair of no-doubters.
Barnes was so dominant in April, pitching 26 shutout innings before allowing his only run of the season thus far in his final start with Greenville, that he pitched himself out of the South Atlantic League and into Advanced A. He racked up the strikeouts with nine against Lakewood April 8, seven at West Virginia April 13, nine at Lexington April 18, nine yet again at Delmarva April 24, and finally with eight at Lakewood April 29, totaling 42 in 26.2 innings pitched for a 14.18 K/9. Barnes departs Greenville with a 2-0 record with an 0.34 ERA in five starts and having held opposing batters at an .130 batting average. He also swept all four SoxProspects.com Pitcher of the Week polls in April and was named South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week for April 5-15.
While Will Middlebrooks opened the season atop the SoxProspects.com prospect rankings, questions remained in some quarters as to how well he would perform in Triple-A when after distinguishing himself in Portland for the bulk of the 2011 season he struggled with Pawtucket after earning a year end promotion. Middlebrooks answered the skeptics with a strong April that saw him tied for second in the International League in home runs with nine behind a 31-year-old non-prospect and in the top ten in batting average. In 89 at-bats over 23 April games, Middlebrooks posted a .348/.396/.708 line with three doubles and a triple in addition to the aforementioned nine home runs. He also scored 18 runs, batted in 27, and stole three bases. He was voted SoxProspects.com Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks April 9-15 and 16-22.
Middlebrooks remains the top ranked prospect in the system by SoxProspects.com and Barnes is currently ranked fourth.