That’s the question posed by the NY Times’ Ben Shipgel, as he catches up with Mets prospect Lastings Milledge, currently toiling with the AFL’s Grand Canyon Rafters.
At 20, often the youngest player on the field during these Arizona Fall League games, Milledge (above) boasts exceptional speed, tremendous outfield range and a frighteningly quick bat. During a showcase event in high school, his throws from the outfield were clocked at 96 miles an hour. He tore through Class A St. Lucie in the first half of last season before being promoted to Class AA Binghamton, where he batted .337 in 193 at-bats. And while Milledge acknowledges that he still needs some polish, Kevin Morgan, the Mets’ director for minor league operations, raves about his precociousness between the foul lines.
Milledge, it would seem, is one of those can’t-miss prospects. Except, of course, he still can. Even though the Mets project him as a fundamental component to their future – billboards with his face alongside those of JosÃ© Reyes and David Wright should be ready for 2007 – Milledge is caught squarely in the crosshairs of an organizational predicament. With the World Series over and off-season maneuvering picking up steam, the quandary facing General Manager Omar Minaya as he tries to move the Mets up a notch is whether Milledge could help them more if he were playing somewhere else.
That is, should the Mets hold on to Milledge, a player with a seemingly endless upside, or, bowing to the transitory nature of the sport, package him in a deal in coming weeks that could supply immediate help, perhaps the big bat they need to turn an 83-victory team into a contender?
“If the Mets are looking to trade him, I know 29 teams who would be more than happy to take him off their hands,” said a veteran National League scout, who asked that his name not be used because he was commenting on another team’s player.