Former New York Mets outfielder Lastings Milledge signed a contract to play for the Atlantic League’s Lancaster Barnstormers this season. While Milledge spent 115 games with New York, 171 with Pittsburgh, 145 with Washington and two with the Chicago White Sox, he played in 255 games for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball is a league of second chances.
Minor League Baseball teams are affiliated with Major League Baseball teams. New Jersey’s Trenton Thunder are a New York Yankees’ farm team, while the Lakewood Blue Claws are affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies. These major league clubs supply the players and coaches to staff the minor league teams. If you go to see them, you’ll be able to watch a handful of players the big league squads consider as prospects as well as a larger number of “organization guys” that are needed to complete the roster.
Each year, some of the “prospects” lose their shine and some of the “organization guys” get pushed out by someone younger or more talented. Independent baseball teams like the ones in the Atlantic League give these displaced players another shot to prove their worth to one of the 30 big league team. Sometimes, it works out — before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he pitched in the playoffs in 2016, Rich Hill spent a summer with the Long Island Ducks. More often, guys just get to keep playing for an extra season or two.
Pitchers Pat Misch and Mike O’Connor, who both seemed to fall out of favor with the current Mets administration, were among 22 Triple-A players that declared free agency at the end of the minor league season.
Former Mets top prospect Lastings Milledge was also among the group of players declaring free agency. I’ll always wonder if he was really that over-hyped, or if he just underachieved with his baseball talent.
In other news, Johan Santana pitched in an instructional league game on Friday as he continues to rehab from shoulder surgery, according to ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin. The Mets are projecting that Santana will be part of the 2012 starting rotation… I’m just curious about what we can realistically expect from the former All-Star.