This house is on fire - Lastings Milledge's run and the final outfield spot

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Really? Really? This is the best picture we have of Milledge?!? Really? // Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune

As has been angrily reiterated several times, Spring Training stats don't mean all that much.  Certainly not for players with established baselines for regular season performance, but also because of the tiny sample size and the mixed-level of competition and effort. 

It's not telling you much, and what it is telling you might be a boldface lie. 

Now, these stats certainly are a nice window to peer at the progression of young players with, and are perhaps useful when trying to decided between players who have otherwise done nothing to distinguish themselves.

Which, of course, brings us to the topic of the White Sox fourth outfielder spot, a battle between three players--Alejandro De Aza, Brent Lillibridge, and Lasting Milledge--who have failed to distinguish themselves.  Lillibridge and Milledge have the distinction of being revered prospects who made the unfortunate switch to backup-level players, but yeah...here we are...throwing darts with a blindfold on trying to pick one of these guys.

As Mike DePilla did a good job of explaining, De Aza offers the most use by virtue of being a left-hander hitter (for a team with only one exceptional left-handed hitter), and is capable of playing center field.  Lillibridge is out of options, and is likely gone for good if he is not chosen for the roster.

Lacking either of these advantages, Lastings Milledge has set about testing how seriously the Sox take Spring Training numbers by absolutely catching fire.  At the beginning of Friday (and he's already 2-4 Friday night), Milledge was sitting on a 1.076 OPS with 4 HRs with 6 BBs and 6 Ks.  Better yet, all of those bombs came against right-handers, which is quite the development as Lastings' primary appeal was as a lefty-mauler...and he's been pretty much useless against righties (.261/.313./.377 for his career).

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Now this picture, is amusing and relevant to the discussion of Milledge's defense. Bravo! // Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

Hot streaks certainly are something that the White Sox take into account when picking over roster battles they're underwhelmed by--hence, Randy Williams--but so is the risk of losing a player without options--hence, riding out Jayson Nix for so long--but there might be another factor at work; growth potential.

It's no secret that the purpose of signing Milledge was largely on the hope that he might show a little of the something that made him one of the highest-rated prospects in baseball, because it sure as hell wasn't based off his big-league performance.  With De Aza and Lillibridge being essentially known commodities, the Sox might be tempted by the possibilities that Milledge offers...especially if he's going to go and show some actual promise.

Whether that should mean enough to choose Milledge's sketchy history of being able to play adequate defense at even the corners over De Aza's center field capabilities, or sacrificing the extra infield depth Lillibridge provides, is up to debate.

The temptation to angrily grumble "No" is certainly there.  Milledge won't get the regular at-bats he's been thriving on in Spring, and if they really wanted to see if he could develop into a real player, this hardly seems like the situation for him to blossom.  If the Sox are really going to ride this hot streak, well then, that would be something.  But with Mark Teahen likely gobbling up any spare corner-outfield at-bats, the 25th spot shouldn't be reserved for the best player left, it's for whoever can come in late in games--after Quentin has barreled into a wall and bruised his face or torn his hair or something--and play the best defense.  It will take a lot longer before anyone believes that's Lastings.

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Only Built 4 Cuban Linx

Jim combs through the records to check the facts on the Scott Boras-Jerry Reinsdorf flap.
Mike is also encouraged by Reinsdorf's recent bout of aggression.  He typifies my piece as "singing [Jerry's] praises", which I guess means I did a good job because I have some sharp feelings on the man, and they're not great.
J.J. has taken down his Examiner page, but hasn't announced his new spot yet, so I assume he must be struggling to make his CN blog banner.

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