In 2003, the New York Mets drafted 18-year old Lastings Milledge with the 12th overall selection. On Thursday, the White Sox designated 26-year old Lastings Milledge for assignment. Having spent time in both the major and minor leagues for four different organizations over the past four seasons, the former highly touted high school product has lost virtually all of his luster.
Though his career is at a crossroads right now, Milledge finds himself in an interesting situation. He isn’t talented enough to legitimately help any team, but he will undoubtedly be given every opportunity to prove that assessment incorrect.
At 26, Milledge is still young enough not to be written off as a bust, but he hasn’t developed the skills many envisioned would come with more experience in the majors. He has some pop but not enough to make scouts think that the power stroke is right around the corner. He can run, but has not been successful stealing bases. Further, he does not even reach base enough to effectively utilize his speed. And while he won’t hurt a team in the outfield with his defensive play, he also isn’t a range demon. Mix everything together and that resume seems to belong to the last player on a bench and not a prospect about to blossom into an effective regular.
His splits don’t even profile well in a platoon situation. Against opposite handed pitchers he has a career line of .287/.361/.432, which is similar to Raul Ibanez ‘s overall numbers last year–decent but underwhelming. To merit usage in a specified role such as a platoon, you better bring it with the stick against an opposite-handed hurler. Teams aren’t going to be confident using a player with that slash line as the right-handed piece of bread in a platoon sandwich. Those that express such an interest are likely desperate or just in need of a cheap stopgap.
When a player is designated for assignment, the team has 10 days to decide whether it wants to release, trade, or assign him to the minors. Deciding on the latter course of action requires the team to place the player on irrevocable outright waivers, where he can be claimed by any of the other 29 teams. Given how Milledge’s career has gone so far, it’s likely that some team will submit a waiver claim.
That’s what happens to players like Milledge, who fall into the awkward area of not being good enough to retain a job on a major league team, but who are young and who have an enticing enough pedigree to consistently be given opportunities to succeed. I could probably store this article as a template on my computer, update the initial employer and the age, and run it each year, as the circumstances are unlikely to change.
Don’t believe me? Heck, Corey Patterson is still getting chances, and his background is similar. Milledge has a career .269/.328/.395 slash line. Patterson has hit .253/.292/.404. Their skillsets are a tad different, but if I had to project the rest of Milledge’s career I would suggest you look no further than Patterson.
Players like Milledge don’t generally “figure it out” but neither do teams. By the time Milledge is 30 years old, he will have played for eight teams, each of which kicked itself for not being able to turn perceived garbage into gold. Bank it.