Saturday, August 13, 2005

Prospect Oversight
By Ben Valentine

After posting my piece on how the Cameron/Beltran injuries aren’t the end of the world, Zach, the good editor that he is, brought something to my attention that I felt should be addressed. It was about a possible replacement to Beltran that I had not really given much consideration to; in the column or when I had heard it suggested by a caller on WFAN earlier today.

That possibility is that the Mets call up top prospect Lastings Milledge from AA to patrol centerfield.

I dismissed it this afternoon for two reasons: number one, Beltran is supposed to be back soon. Of course that could change, but I haven’t honestly thought of that as a real possibility yet. Reason two is that Milledge has only been at AA for a month and could certainly use more seasoning.

That being said, it isn’t the worst idea I’ve heard, as was my first reaction this afternoon. Somehow looking at Milledge’s 3 hit night in his last game at Binghamton made me a little more favorable to it, I think. (Zach mentioned it coincidently while I was looking at the box score from the game). At AA Milledge has gone .303/.359/.370 after his .302/.385/.418 clip in the pitcher friendly Florida State League earned him that promotion. All and all it has been a very good season for Lastings, who at the age of 20 is one of the top prospects in baseball.

But is he a legitimate candidate to get a call up, supposing Beltran was out for an extended period of time? It’s hard to say honestly. With the Mets outfield set all year before this point and Victor Diaz being the next one on the depth chart, there has been no push to rush Milledge. His average is great, his on base solid (an improvement from his first year of pro ball) and his slugging is poor, but then he’s only 20 years old. He most likely would be the best centerfielder the Mets could plug out there, but could he hit enough to play everyday at this point?

My gut feeling says no. I think he’d do something like .250/.300/.350 in the bigs. Despite the boost he could provide defensively and on the base paths with his speed, I just think it would be a hindrance to his development. But if Beltran’s injury lingers and the Mets fall out of it, or the replacements turn out to be putrid, then it would not surprise me to see Milledge patrolling the 410 area of Shea. If Beltran does in fact go on the DL, stay tuned.

Another prospect note: Also in that AA game, 21 year old starter Yusmerio Petit went 8 innings, giving up 3 hits, 1 walk, 1 earned run and struck out 11. In 109.2 innings this year, he’s allowed 87 hits, 18 walks, struck out 118 and pitched to a 3.12 ERA. His ERA is "high" because he's surrendered 15 homers this year. While I’m not sure if Milledge is ready for the big show yet, I’d be quite pleased if the Mets gave this kid a look sometime this year. Hell, I’d rather see him out on the mound next Wednesday against the Pirates than Tom Glavine. If nothing else, send the kid to AAA already. Tide fans could use a good prospect to watch.

Okay maybe I'm just a little jealous of Zach with Felix Hernandez. Or sick of Tom Glavine. (I don't care how good his last start was, the other shoe will drop) You be the judge.

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