One of the more interesting questions that were emailed to me was from Brian, one of my friends on Mets Merized at Myspace.
He asked about Lastings Milledge in comparison to Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez, and that maybe we should trade Milledge rather than the other two, his question was in response to an earlier blog I had posted.
The reason I think the Mets will keep Lastings Milledge is that all things being equal, Milledge was always considered by scouts and GM’s to be a cant-miss, five-tool talent. Going back to high school, Lastings Milledge has never take longer than a few months to get acclimated to playing at a higher level of baseball. He has excelled at every level.
Carlos Gomez and even Fernando Martinez in that regard, are still very raw and they have to work very hard to make it to the majors. They each had moderate success in the very low minors, but neither of them dominated or merited a promotion. Martinez hit .279 with 10 homeruns, 39 RBI’s and 8 stolen bases in 315 at-bats. Gomez hit .281 with 7 homers, 47 RBI’s and 41 stolen bases, however he struck out 97 times in 430 at-bats while drawing only 27 walks. Like I said, they both have a lot of hard work ahead of them before they make it to the major leagues.
Milledge, however is a natural born talent, his instincts at the plate needed very little coaching. His bat speed is not only the best in the organization, but 12 months ago it was considered the best in the minor leagues.
You cant teach a player instincts and bat speed. He has a baseball pedigree, having a father who was a former major leaguer, and a brother in the minors. Now all of this doesn’t mean that Gomez and Martinez won’t be stars someday, it just means that they must work hard every single day to make it, whereas in Milledge’s case it comes so natural to him.
Players like Lastings Milledge only come around once every 10 or 15 years. At the age of twelve, he played third base and hit clean-up for the Manatee East Little League team that was the national runner-up in the 1997 Little League World Series.
In 2001, he led Team USA to a Gold Medal game victory over Venezuela in the International Baseball Federation’s AA World Youth Championships. Later that year, Baseball America named Milledge the best 16-year-old player in the USA. He graduated from Lakewood Ranch High School in Bradenton, Florida in 2003 after leading his team to the state 5A title his senior year.
He was expected to be the number one pick in the 2003 Draft, but the week of the draft, allegations of misconduct at school, knocked his stock down and he fell to the Mets at number 12. After signing and returning from a broken hand, in 65 games with Rookie League, he hit .337 with 13 home runs, 58 RBI and 23 stolen bases, earning him a promotion to the St. Lucie Mets in August. In 2005, he continued his minor league success hitting .302 with St. Lucie in the first half of the season and .337 with the AA Binghamton Mets in the second half. He began the 2006 season leading off and playing right field for the AAA Norfolk Tides.
Last season he got his first taste of coffee with the Mets and got off to a rough start with his teammates and the media. He was hitting .291 (53-182) with 32 runs scored, 16 doubles, two triples, four home runs, 19 RBI with 32 walks, 42 strikeouts and eight stolen bases in 50 games for the Tides at the time his contract was purchased. Despite the (overblown) distractions he impressed with his powerful bat, his speed on the bases, and he even displayed a canon for an arm and picked up 4 outfield assists.
So far this spring he is batting .361 and is second on the team in hits, runs, stolen bases, and total bases. He is the real deal. He has shown that he is capable of responding to adversity. He has been a positive influence all through spring training. Hi is a bright kid, with a great personality and an enormous wealth of natural abilty and baseball instincts.
Teams do not trade players with this kind of talent… They sign them to 10 year deals.
Statistical and historical data provided by wiki and mlb.com.