Scout's View: Brent Lillibridge
See also: Archive of previous Scout's Views
In need of a lefthanded power bat, the Pirates dealt lefthander Mike Gonzalez and shortstop Brent Lillibridge to Atlanta for first baseman Adam LaRoche and outfielder Jamie Romak.
Lillibridge is coming off a season during which he batted .305/.419/.480 in 475 at-bats split between low Class A Hickory and high Class A Lynchburg. A fourth-round pick out of Washington in 2005, Lillibridge spent his freshman year in center field for the Huskies before moving to shortstop. It didn't really matter where he played, as he was named to the all-Pac-10 team three times.
No matter how impressive his 2006 numbers were, Lillibridge's year was also somewhat historic, as he was the only player in the minors to hit over .300, post over a .400 on-base percentage, hit over 10 home runs (13), drive in over 50 runs (71) and steal over 50 bases (53).
The only players to come close to that in recent history were Pablo Ozuna in 1998 at low Class A Peoria and Lew Ford at low Class A Augusta in 2000. But both players fell short of the home run mark, finishing with nine in each case--and both were nearly two years older than Lillibridge.
We caught up with a veteran American League scout to give us the lowdown on just what kind of upside the Braves received in the 23-year-old shortstop:
"This guy is a poor man's Brian Roberts . . . very exciting player with boundless energy and good speed, reactions, and instincts.
"The bat will play as average to a tick above, but when you couple that with his ability to get on base, he should be an above-average hitter for his position. The power is average or maybe a tick below, and he should end up as a guy who hits right around 10-12 in the big leagues.
"He has outstanding range at short--better going to his right--and an above-average arm. The reason he has so many errors (Lillibridge committed 34 errors in 2006) is he tries to do too much on some plays. It's more getting to balls a lot of guys wouldn't get to and trying to make something happen. The guy's a grinder.
"His speed is also above average, but he's not a burner--he gets his stolen bases with instincts and feel, and this points to what a solid overall baseball player he is, a real gamer who can do all the little things.
"If you look at the strides he made in his first full-season if he is able to cut down his swing, there is no reason why he can't be a poor man's Brian Roberts.
"He's one of the top middle infield prospects in the game for me, a sure-fire major leaguer with the only question being how good he will be and where--short, second base, or even moving him back to the outfield."