First off, let me preface this by saying I loved Nyjer! Morgan aka Mr. Tony Plush. After Nate, my favorite player was traded, he became my favorite. He was a former hockey player and quote machine that usually had about 4 ounces of chew in his mouth. He played awesome D, hit for a decent average, and ran fast as hell on the bases (although often 3 feet too far, or 1 second too early, thus turning his previous hit into an out). His uniform was always dirty and you couldn't not like him. He won me over from the "I-can't-believe-this-guy-hitting-190-in-Bradenton-is-guarunteed-the-starting-LF-job" camp which is saying a lot.
That said I'd like to turn to the guy we got back for him, Lastings Milledge. Milledge was hyped beyond belief as prospect, as is any top NY prospect (Jackson, Martinez, Gomez, Maine, Hughes) . He also did a lot of stupid things that were hyped, as is any stupid thing one does in NY. He went to DC and showed both reasons for the hype about his game, as well as reasons for hype about the stupid things he does. How you feel about him really depends on which way you look at his game, so I decided to do both.
-Scouting reports said he had CF range with a RF arm, plus speed, and plus power to all fields. BA ranked him as the best hitter for average, and best overall position prospect in the Mets system.
-This report said he had "one of the highest pure physical ceilings in the game overall. "
-He played 1 1/2 seasons for the Mets then Nationals. his numbers for those years are below.
Games AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
Those numbers are pretty solid for a young player and show the potential that everyone raved about. Particularly in 2008 where he had 14 HR's while hitting .268 He also stole 24 bases while being caught 9 times, or slightly less than every 4th attempt.
In this his breakout year, as we approach the midway point Nyjer is hitting 278 with 2 HR's and 18 SB with 10 CS or slightly (correction: more) than every third attempt. Milledge hit for more power, higher OPS, and slugging, as well as being a more efficient base stealer.
Perhaps most importantly, Milledge is 24 as opposed to Morgan's 29
While his power is better, his eye for the strike zone is not, which was one of the concerns on his early scouting reports. Nyjer actually leads Milledge in OBP and is on pace to have more walks than Milledge did in 2008. For all of that power Milledge's OPS was only 730 in '08 which is not a huge improvement over Nyjer. Milledge has also been an adventure in the OF.
-After drafting him the Mets temporarily shut down negotiations when accusations surfaced that Milledge had sexual contact with girls as young as 12 while in high school. However, no charges were ever filed, and the Mets thought little enough of it after looking into it to sign him. http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/story?id=1590426
-While with the Mets he rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and was sent to Washington:
from the NY Times:
Milledge was brought up last May. He was alternately electrifying and frustrating. He showed power, speed and arm strength, but he made base-running errors and defensive mistakes. He showed up late to the ballpark one day.
Milledge displayed exuberance and an inflated view of himself. After he hit his first major league home run, he high-fived fans on the way back out to right field. It was a nice extemporaneous touch, but he was blasted for hot-dogging. Later someone -- presumably a Mets veteran -- put an unsigned note in Milledge's locker, exhorting him to have some respect for the game, to act like a professional.
It was apparent from our conversation Thursday that Milledge had thought long and hard about the 2006 season, and that he had made an adjustment. ''I know I hit some of the guys the wrong way,'' he said. ''I understand that. But if I can tone it down to where it's acceptable in the clubhouse, it's accepted to the veterans who paved the way for me, then we got something.''
-After starting to show his potential at the plate in 2008, Milledge was to be the starting CF and lead off man for the Nationals this year. The team wanted him to take more pitches and change his approach as a leadoff. However, he did not deliver at the plate and misplayed a number of balls in center, then was demoted to AAA after 7 games and 24 AB to work on his approach and defense.
From the Nationals Journal, Milledge after his demotion regarding his role on to start the '09 season
"It was a good opportunity for me," Milledge said. "I was excited, but I knew I would struggle a little bit, just like I knew I would struggle in centerfield last year. But I never said anything. I just go work as hard as I can. I knew I would struggle. I knew I wouldn't get off to a hot start. I knew that myself because of the change of style in my hitting."
So after all of this it really still depends on which guy you think you're getting. The free swinger who plays bad D, refuses to listen to his coaches and disrespects his teammates and coaches, or the uber-talented young guy who's made some mistakes, but responded well to criticism and can still be a star.
Personally I think it is somewhere in between. I think the main problem in DC was that he was forced into a position where he would fail, and acknowledged knowing as much. While Nyjer is a #8 hitting CF who is leading off and playing LF, Milledge is more like a #6 htting RF right now who was leading off and playing CF on a bad team. He will probably never walk as much as you'd like, but can probably be an average RF with solid power numbers and 30 SB potential. If it all clicks he has the potential to be a stud. However, there is also a chance that he will progress as much in the future after age 24, as Nyjer will after age 29.