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Prospect Smackdown: Delmon Young vs. Lastings Milledge

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Outfield Smackdown: Delmon Young vs. Lastings Milledge

BACKGROUND and INTANGIBLES
Young: Delmon Young was the first overall pick in the 2003 draft, out of high school in Camarillo, California. He is the younger brother of major leaguer Dmitri Young, and is considered more advanced than Dmitri was at the same age, which is high praise because Dmitri was himself a first-round pick. Delmon has been around the game of baseball since he was a little kid, and is not awed by the pro environment. He is intelligent and confident in his ability, although sometimes this comes across as arrogance. His work ethic is rated as being very good-to-excellent by most, although some scouts don't think he tries very hard on defense.
Milledge: Milledge was drafted by the Mets in the first round in 2003, out of high school in Florida. 12th overall. Like Young, Milledge comes from a baseball family and has a good feel for what professional baseball is all about. Milledge faced an allegation of sexual misconduct in high school, but no charges were ever filed, and he's had no behavior problems as a pro. Like Young, Milledge is intelligent, confident, and has a good work ethic. He hasn't faced the same questions about "arrogance" that Young has.
Advantage: This is about as even as you can get. Both have excellent amateur backgrounds. Both are intelligent and work hard. Young's "arrogance" tag is a difficult thing to substantiate. Milledge may put more effort on defense than Young does, but for now I think we have to call this even.

PHYSICALITY and TOOLS
Young: Young is a very good all-around athlete, with excellent strength and power, decent speed, and a strong throwing arm. Like his brother, he has a tendency to gain weight, and will have to work hard to keep in shape down the road, but so far it hasn't been a problem. He is expected to lose his speed as he matures, even if he keeps his weight under control. He is a Five-Tool player right now, although if he loses his speed that will go down to four tools. His bat is extremely quick.
Milledge: Milledge is an excellent all-around athlete. He doesn't have quite as much pure strength as Young, but his bat may be a hair quicker due to his light-speed wrists, which will help him hit for average. Milledge is faster, leaner, and should have an easier time maintaining his speed. He also has a strong throwing arm. On the other hand, Milledge has been prone to nagging injuries and muscle pulls, and durability may be an issue down the line. Like Young, Milledge is a Five-Tool talent, but has a somewhat better chance to maintain all of those tools in the long run. He will also be a more valuable defensive player in the long run.
Advantage: I think Milledge has a slight edge on physical tools, but it's very close. Does Milledge's advantage in speed outweigh Young's apparent advantage in durability?

PERFORMANCE and SKILLS
Young: In 1071 career at-bats, Young has hit .317 with a .531 SLG. He hit .285/.303/.447 in 52 games in Triple-A at age 19, obviously impressive performance considering his age group and the level of competition. He also stole 32 bases this year. Young can hit for power and average. His main sabermetric flaw right now is a low walk rate and shaky plate discipline, but his strikeout rate is also fairly low, and his bat speed is so good that he's been able to compensate for the willingness to chase bad pitches. With more experience, he should develop all Seven Skills.
Milledge: In 793 career at-bats, Milledge has hit .313 with a .485 SLG. He hit .337/.392/.487 in 48 games of Double-A baseball at age 20, obviously impressive performance considering his age group and the level of competition. He also stole 29 bases this year. Milledge can hit for power and average, but at this point he has less realized power than Young. He also needs to improve his stolen base success ratio. Like Young, Milledge doesn't control the strike zone very well, and his strikeout rate is higher. It hasn't hurt his production yet, but he needs to improve his read on the zone to thrive in the majors. With more experience, he should develop all Seven Skills.
Advantage: There is nothing wrong with Milledge's performance on its own terms, but Young has the advantage here, having played at a higher level at a slightly younger age. Both of them have work to do in the skill category, but I think Young is a bit more refined at this point.

PROJECTION
Young: Given his age, performance, and tools, Young projects as a superstar player, capable of hitting around .300 or higher with lots of power and good speed, at least early in his career. His OBP may be a problem early, but in the long run it should not be an issue. He is the kind of player who might compete for Triple Crowns.
Milledge: Given his age, performance, and tools, Milledge projects as a superstar player, capable of hitting .300 or higher with lots of power and good speed.. His OBP may be a problem early, and he has more work to do in the plate discipline department than Young does. He also doesn't project to hit as many homers. On the other hand, Milledge projects to be a better defensive player.
Advantage: The main advantage that Young has is that he is six months younger than Milledge and should hit for more power. But Milledge is hardly a slouch in the power department, and has better speed. I will go with Young here, but it is very, very close.

OVERALL
Young: Young has very slight advantages in power projection, current performance, and baseball skill level.
Milledge: Milledge has a very slight edge in overall physical tools and defense.
Advantage: On balance, I think that Young comes out a hair ahead of Milledge, but it's a photo finish.

What do you guys and gals think? Poll question in the comments section.

Poll

Who Will Have A Better Career, as measured by things like WARP and Win Shares?

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    Lastings Milledge
    (584 votes)
  • 31%
    Delmon Young
    (270 votes)
854 votes total Vote Now