2005 Arizona Fall League Notebook: Lastings Milledge

SURPRISE, Ariz.–And the Lastings shall be first.

Even if it means coffee with the roosters and a 45-minute crosstown
drive, New York Mets top prospect Lastings Milledge is so serious
absorbing the nuances of hitting that he is a regular at Grand Canyon
hitting coach John Mallee’s 8 a.m. film study sessions this Arizona
Fall League season.

“He spends time studying the game. He is constantly trying to learn
and develop his swing,” said Mallee, who has spent the last four
seasons as Florida’s roving hitting coordinator.

“He’s a go-getter. He watches a lot of film; he will sit and watch
the other guys so he can learn something. We’ll watch it before we go
out and do our early work, and a lot of times he’s the early guy. He’s
committed.”

The early sessions have not hurt. Milledge, 20, has built on a solid
regular season by going .321-4-18 in 81 at-bats for Grand Canyon,
adding four doubles and five stolen bases as the fall league enters its
final week. He is tied for fifth in stolen bases and his 19 runs are
sixth.

If it means setting the alarm at 6:30 a.m., Milledge will do what it takes.

“I try to get out there (for early film study) three, four times a
week. It’s good to get the mind working early,” said Milledge, the
12th overall pick in 2003 out of Lakewood Ranch High in Palmetto, Fla.

“I usually have all my ABs on video and we’ll look at those, but
sometimes it will be other guys. We just go back and forth with what we
see. We just talk about hitting. He (Mallee) studies hitting. I study
hitting. I’ve come up with a lot of stuff. You can learn something
every day. You can look at film every day and still not break
everything down, because hitting is that complex.”

For Milledge, who was a composite .318-8-46 with 32 doubles and 29
stolen bases while splitting time between high Class A St. Lucie and
Double-A Binghamton in the summer season, it is all part of the
one-on-one battle with the man on the mound.

“I always want the edge when I’m in the batter’s box trying to beat
the pitcher,” he said. “I have to have that extra edge. I feel like I
get that when I come in early and get my mind working.”

Milledge has hit leadoff much of the AFL season and, while a natural
center fielder, also has spent time in left field because of the
Rafters’ glut of designated center fielders. With Carlos Beltran an
apparent fixture in center for the Mets, Milledge’s exposure to left
field cannot hurt.

As a leadoff man, Milledge said his goal in the Fall League is pitch recognition.

“Just trying to play the role of a leadoff hitter. That’s what I’m learning to do. That’s coming along,” he said.

Mallee has seen enough of Milledge to believe major league success is just a matter of time.

“He’s one of the top five prospects in the league, no question,”
Mallee said. “His tools stand out. He can run. He can throw. His makeup
is really good. His aptitude is very high. He’s an aggressive hitter,
and when he gets a pitch in his zone he is not going to take it. That’s
good.”

Milledge late last week was named to the United States’ Olympic
regional qualifying team that will play in a six-team tournament in the
Phoenix area Nov. 15-20.

It will be Milledge’s fourth experience representing his country–he
had a walkoff single against Taiwan with the World Cup team over the
summer. And if it lengthens an already long season, he does not seem to
care.

“It really hasn’t been that long to me, because I have it in my mind
that I have to get better,” Milledge said. “I don’t care how long it
takes.”

FALL GUYS

• Surprise shortstop Brandon Wood (Angels) set an Arizona
Fall League record with his 13th home run in an 11-9 victory over Grand
Canyon Nov. 5. Wood, the California League MVP after hitting 43 homers
at Rancho Cucamonga this summer, was .284-13-29 in 26 games. He led the
league in RBIs and was third in slugging percentage (.686). Wood is
among the 19 Fall Leaguers who will be members of the 24-man Olympic
qualifying team.

• With four games remaining in the regular season, American Division
leader Phoenix was 20-8 (.714), a winning percentage that would set a
league record. If the Desert Dogs win three of their final four, they
would finish at .719, breaking Mesa’s 1999 record. Mesa won the AFL
championship in 1999, going 31-13 (.705) in the regular season before
sweeping Maryvale in a best-of-three playoff series.

• Phoenix righthander Shane Komine (A’s), a ninth-round 2002
draftee from Nebraska, led the league with a 1.14 ERA entering the
final week, giving up only three earned runs in five appearances, all
starts, covering 23 2-3 innings. He had walked three while striking out
18. Komine is coming off Tommy John surgery in July 2004, but topped
out at 95 mph during the Texas League playoffs during the regular
season. “He’s been great this fall,” Athletics farm director Keith Lieppman said. “We’ve had to watch his workload, but he’s really responded against some pretty potent lineups.”

Minors | #2005 #Arizona Fall League #Winter Baseball

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