Monday, March 28, 2011

Former #1 Prospects Getting A Shot At Redemption

In 2005, Lastings Milledge was rated as the New York Mets Top Prospect by Baseball America. In 2006, Travis Buck received the same honor for the Oakland Athletics.

In describing  Milledge, Baseball America said;

"It’s still unclear as to whether Milledge profiles better at the top or in the middle of the order. He has above-average speed that he uses to his advantage on the bases and in center field, and he also has a plus arm. With his package of five tools, Milledge has few peers in the minors, and he has produced throughout his minor league career."

In describing Buck, B.A. had this to say;

"Buck is a bigger version of [Andre] Ethier with similar tools but more projected power."

Pretty gaudy stuff, but that's what's to be expected of high-end Minor League talent. It should also serve as a working example for how despite the best of intentions, reading prospects is a very inexact science. We can scout them, evaluate their performances, and still wind up completely missing the boat on someone.

While Milledge was given every chance to start by the Mets and Nationals, he did little to inspire confidence and now, at just 26, found himself rather desperately seeking a way back onto a roster, signing a Minor League contract with the White Sox this past off season.

Buck, at least partially due to injuries that have derailed his career, hasn't gotten nearly as many at-bats as Milledge, but with a .755 career OPS, actually has done a a bit more with his than Milledge, who's career OPS is just .723. Like Milledge, Buck signed a Minor League deal with the Indians prior to this off season just hoping for one more chance to catch on.

Defensively Milledge was once thought to be capable of manning center field, but has proven to be better suited for a corner role, playing mostly left field throughout his career. Buck too once held the potential to man a center field position, though that prospect died before reaching the Majors and instead he's settled in as a plus defender in right.

Thanks partly to injuries that have been suffered by their new clubs, both players find themselves staring another chance in the eye. The Indians, set back by the recovery of star center fielder Grady Sizemore from microfracture surgery, and the the subsequent shoulder woes of his backup Trevor Crowe found themselves in need of a new backup, with expected 4th outfielder Austin Kearns moving into a starting role. Enter Buck who's hot spring with a .404 average and four homeruns has made waves around Indians camp.

In Chicago, Milledge's chance to hook back up with a Major League team has come as the result of a another Top Prospects injury misfortune. When the Sox slugging corner outfielder Dayan Viciedo was hit on the hand by a pitch and broke a bone, it opened the door for Milledge. Like Buck, Milledge is having a sensational spring, hitting .298 with four home runs of his own.

While neither player has earned a starting role, both will have an opportunity to keep their jobs as backups if they can justify it with their performances. It's also not entirely inconceivable that with strong performances, they could unseat those teams presumptive opening day starters and once again find themselves in the limelight.

Redemption is a tricky thing, but it can be beautiful when done right.

Corey Ettinger is a Senior Writer for Baseball Digest as well as a proud contributor to both,, and He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Coreyettinger for the latest updates, random thoughts and general tomfoolery.

No comments:

Post a Comment