Milledge 'seeing' way to .300
Former Lakewood Ranch star says he's seeing the ball better, and his numbers have improved dramatically for the St. Lucie Mets.
BY JON STYF
EAST MANATEE -- What a difference two weeks can make.
When former Lakewood Ranch outfielder Lastings Milledge made his return to the Sarasota area with the St. Lucie Mets, he was fighting a .200 average. He said he knew things would turn around.
Now, only two weeks later, the ball is starting to look like the watermelon it always has for one of baseball's top prospects.
Since the series began in Sarasota on May 15, the center fielder went on a 20-for-46 (.452) tear that has his batting average near .300. At one point last week, it reached .297 before leveling off at .285 after Monday night's game.
"I'm just seeing the ball better and hitting it well," Milledge said recently after completing a series with the Tampa Yankees. "I was going to get it sooner or later anyway."
Baseball America has ranked Milledge the No. 11 prospect in baseball and the top prospect in the Mets organization. Until this week, Milledge has battled an injury to his hand and a steep learning curve.
His biggest lesson learned? Patience.
"I work a lot on seeing more pitches and working the counts deeper," he said.
Now the question becomes how long the 20-year-old will stick in Advance-A before moving up to Double-A Binghamton.
Milledge said he is content working on his game in the Florida State League.
"It's not my choice," he said. "I move up whenever the scouting director says I'm ready."
Milledge also said that his defense has improved at the same pace. He's playing deeper in the outfield and learning to get better jumps on the ball when it's hit.
The future of the Mets' outfield is still an uncertainty, but the main cogs seem to be Carlos Beltran, Victor Diaz and Milledge.
While major league outfielders Cliff Floyd and Mike Cameron won't be around much longer, Beltran signed a seven-year, $119 million contract that has him locked up as the Mets' center fielder of the future.
Diaz had a successful stint with the major league Mets before the 23-year-old right fielder returned to Triple-A Norfolk.
That leaves the left field position open down the road and although he has mainly played center field, Milledge knows that he can make a detour to anywhere in the outfield if asked..