Low Cost, High Ceiling

In my previous post, I talked about a secondaries market created in the baseball world when many trades are made that swaps players multiple times. There’s not much to lose for the team receiving the damaged goods, but a large ceiling is there that can be obtained (obviously it doesn’t happen often). Here are my top choices for up and coming players who have been deemed as useless by other organizations.

Lastings Milledge

Lastings (cool name, right? Too bad he didn’t LAST with two teams. get it? get it?) was drafted pretty high in 2003 by the New York Mets. I first heard about him through Athletics blogs saying how Billy Beane really wanted this kid, almost trading an established pitcher named Joe Blanton for the young outfielder. Considered a five tool player (meaning he could hit for average, home runs, steal bases, essentially be a versatile player), Milledge didn’t start a full season in the minors until 2004. Through his 2 full years in the minors, he proved he was capable of hitting, yet his attitude and immaturity slowed him a bit. Finally in 2006 he was given a chance by the Mets, making his debut in late May. He was seldomly used through his two years as a Met before he was traded to the Nationals.

The trade was mainly due to his attitude and persona that forced the organization’s hand. The Nationals thought they could tame him, but after only a year of service traded him once again to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Both the Mets and Nats felt his negative attitude out-weighted his talent. They were right to trade him. The fit just wasn’t right, and those two organizations didn’t have the patience to wait out and see whether he got past his issues.

Critics have to remember he is still 24 years old. Like many risky investments, Lastings is your typical J-curve player, where your returns will not be realized until (or if) the negative image and immaturity grows out of him. That’s why the Pirates can win since they weren’t really negatively affected by his performances with his past clubs. Instead they can gain so much if he is able to grow into a respectable player. And who knows, it might take him another team to try him on before he will realize that his talent is being wasted when he gets in trouble.

Jayson Werth

You can already see the high returns the Phillies are getting from this once prospect of the Toronto Blue Jays. He was traded to the LA Dodgers where he was mainly used as a fourth outfielder. Injuries caused him to miss most of 2006, and during the off season, signed a frugal contract with the Phillies. He’s started to find his groove as his numbers show improvement, even at the age of 31. Can he keep it up?

There’s another guy I really like as a once highly touted prospect, but some still consider him that, which is why I left him off this list. Carlos Gonzalez was traded from Arizona to Oakland and is now hitting primetime in Colorado. Like Lastings, he was known through his minor league career to show excellent discipline which gave him a pretty high walk to strikeout ratio. He hasn’t been able to produce the same patience in the majors, but if anything, plate discipline comes with maturity, which is something that Gonzalez and Milledge should develop. Many organizations give up on prospects even at their tender age of 22, 23. It’s a short fuze to have, but it makes sense for other organizations to give a shot to these players, and hopefully reap the benefits.