Not every prospect is a guaranteed. This is one of the more recent top 10 prospects to not succeed in the Majors who had a brief tenure with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
A prospect is never a sure thing. While most top prospects in the top 10 range usually become, at the very least, a productive MLB player, that’s not always the case. One of the Pittsburgh Pirates forgotten outfielders in the late 2000s and heading into the 2010s was Lastings Milledge, and at one point, he was a top 10 prospect.
Now, Milledge wasn’t a top prospect with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the New York Mets. He was drafted by the team in the 1st round of the 2003 draft, and appeared on his first top prospect list the following season, coming in at the 86th spot by Baseball America. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Mets after they drafted him.
There were allegations of Milledge having a sexual relationship with 12 and 13 year old girls during the 2001-2002 school year when Milledge was still a minor. But no charges were filed. By 2006, Baseball America had him ranked as the 9th best prospect in baseball after showing some pop, speed, and decent fielding.
But Lastings didn’t last long in Queens. In 2006, and 2007, Milledge played just 115 games and stepped to the plate 391 times. In total, he had a .257/.326/.414 with a 91 OPS+. Not good for a guy who entered 2006 as a top 10 prospect, and put up a .837 OPS in the season prior to his major league debut. His fielding was also pretty bad, with 0 DRS, but -8.2 UZR/150, and -2.9 range runs.
He also displayed a colorful personality, one that would butt heads with some of his Mets teammates. For example, in 2006, Milledge hit a game tying home run, and the first of his MLB career off of San Francisco Giants’ closer Armando Benitez. After the inning, when running to his position, he gave Mets’ fans at Shea Stadium high-fives while running down the line. This led to then Mets’ closer Billy Wagner putting a sign above the rookie’s locker stating “Know Your Place, Rook!”.
Then in 2007, Milledge appeared in a rap song that featured plenty of profanity which caused a bit of turmoil between the young outfielder and the Mets. He was also showing up to practice late. Now was his clubhouse beef a bit overblown? Yes, but him showing up to the field late is definitely not a sign of good work ethic, and you still can’t ignore the allegations before he was drafted. After the 2007 season, Milledge was traded to the Washington Nationals for Brian Schnider and Ryan Church.
Milledge served as the team’s everyday center fielder in 2008. He showed that speed and power he flashed in the minors, crushing 14 home runs and stealing 24 bags, but that’s about where the positives end. Milledge ended the season with a .268/.330/.404 line, with a 93 wRC+. His defense was atrocious with the Nats in 2008 with -16.8 UZR, -13 DRS and -11.3 range runs.
Milledge barely played with the Nats in 2009, only receiving 26 MLB plate appearances. Now, we finally get into his tenure with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
He was traded by the Nats to the Bucs on June 30, 2009 with Joel Hanarhan for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett. After being traded, he batted .291/.333/.395 in his first 239 plate appearances with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Overall, he was still a below average batter with a 91 OPS+. Although he was still not a great fielder, he improved posting +4 DRS in Pittsburgh.
The former top prospect served as one of the Pirates main outfielders in 2010, but appeared in only 412 plate appearances. He hit just .277/.332/.380 with a 94 OPS+ and 95 wRC+. Defensively, he finally was seen as a solid defender with +2 DRS, and 1.3 UZR/150. But overall, he was worth 0.5 bWAR.
This would be his last year in Pittsburgh as he was granted free agency, and signed by the Chicago White Sox where he played just four games. However, he showed more maturity with the Pirates than he did with previous teams, so at the very least, there was that.
2011 was Milledge’s last season with any MLB team, or MLB affiliate. From 2012 to 2015, Milledge headed over to Japan where he wasn’t an awful batter. After a short stint in the Mexican Winter League in 2016, Milledge played his final season of professional baseball in 2017 with the independent league Lancaster Barnstormers.
After a troubling first few years of professional baseball, ones that included controversy and clubhouse tension, Lasting Milledge is doing a lot of good for the community now. Milledge is now an advocate for the increase of African American youth participation in baseball, something that has seen a drop in the past few years. Currently, he runs Manatee Intercity Baseball in Bradenton. Their mission is to give lower income youth a chance to play baseball, which is something the sport needs.