Q&A with Lastings Milledge

Mets' top prospect, Lastings Milledge, checks in with NYfansonly.com for an offseason Q&A session to talk about how he dealt with his injured hand last Spring, how he felt about his 2004 season, his thoughts on being named in trade rumors, what he has to say to the Yusmeiro Petit critics, and much more.

NYF: Take us back to draft day 2003. Were you surprised it was the Mets that drafted you? What were your feelings about that particular day?

Lastings Milledge: Honestly, I was really not looking forward to draft day. I knew I was going to go in the first round and I thought I might have gone higher than I did, but I just wasn't looking forward to the negotiations and stuff like that. Don't get wrong, I was excited about being drafted. But I was more looking forward to actually playing than I was being drafted and signed.

NYF: What has it been like since signing with the Mets? How have you felt about being a part of the Mets' system?

Milledge: It has been a great experience. I don't know of another organization that cares about all the players at every level like the Mets do. Whether you're a first round draft pick or if you were selected in the 30th round, they treat everyone equally in the organization and that's one of the things I love about the Mets. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

NYF: Take us back to Spring Training last year. What was going through your mind when you broke your hand? Were you really upset that your 2004 debut would be delayed even longer?

Milledge: I was fine. Actually, I was glad something like that happened. It made me work even harder to get into better shape. Because of the injury I had limited use of my body and I was not able to get any field work in and all I could do was pretty much hit the gym and lift. I took the opportunity to get stronger and faster. I pretty much took a negative into a positive and it made me a better player I think.

NYF: How do you feel about your season last year? Were you happy with the results?

Milledge: It went well and the stats were great, but I felt I could have done a lot better in certain areas like cutting down on the strikeouts and having a better batting average. Those things could have been better, but I am working more towards learning how to be a leadoff hitter.

NYF: Let's talk about that for a moment. Is your goal to be a leadoff hitter or is more of the Mets goal for you?

Milledge: Actually we both agreed on it together. I'm definitely not the biggest guy on the team or in the organization and both sides felt I fit in better in the organization if I was to become a leadoff hitter. I'd be taking away some of my weapons if I was to hit third in the lineup. You know, I wouldn't get to use my speed as much. I had 12 bunt base hits this past year and you're not really going to do that if you're hitting third. I like bunting. You can get some positives going from bunting and it gets you going if you are slumping. It just gets you going more, for me at least, when batting leadoff.

NYF: How do you plan on doing those things you're talking about, as far as becoming a better leadoff hitter?

Milledge: I think it comes from just growing and getting older. I mean, I'm just 19 years old and this was really first season of professional baseball. I'm just getting my feet wet. Last year I didn't really know what to focus on and now I am just going to focus on seeing more pitches and going deeper into the counts. That'll come from more experience.

NYF: Well you mentioned you love being a part of the Mets' system. One of the things that comes with the territory, especially when you're a top prospect, is being named in almost trade rumor out there. How does it make you feel when your name is mentioned all over the place in trade rumors?

Milledge: That's just nothing I can control. There are always going to be rumors and to me, I look at it like an honor. I don't look at it as, why don't the Mets want me. I look at it as a compliment really. I mean, if a team is trading one of their top prospects they are usually getting a hell of a Major League ballplayer back in return. I just look at it as a compliment to my game and if they want to trade me, so be it. It doesn't change my personal goal of reaching the Majors.

NYF: Do you have any goals for next season? Where do you think you'll be starting next season?

Milledge: I really have no idea where I'll be starting the year. I have a goal but I'm keeping it to myself. Whether it is AA, AAA, or back in A-ball, whatever is going to help me get to the Big Leagues quicker is the route I want to take.

NYF: How do you feel when people or publications, like Baseball America and Inside Pitch, rank you as the #1 prospect in the Mets' system?

Milledge: Well, all the accolades are great. But honestly, they don't really mean all that much to me. It does not change my main focus which is getting to the Big Leagues. That's really all I want.

NYF: Of all the pitchers you've seen in the Mets system, which pitcher in your opinion has the highest upside?

Milledge: Wow, that's easy. Yusmeiro Petit. He's a Big League pitcher pitching in the minors. He's my favorite player in the entire organization. He takes off a whole load off the other side of team. We don't need as many runs to win when he's on the mound and he's a great guy too. He has unbelievable command.

NYF: What about all those people who say Petit does not have the "stuff" to be a good Major League pitcher?

Milledge: That's an ignorant statement. Whoever says that doesn't know what he's talking about! Sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due. He's one of the best pitchers in minor league baseball and I think he's going to be a great pitcher in the Major Leagues. The kid is really amazing. I never got to swing against the kid but we had to step in against him just to see what he's throwing, and it was like you couldn't see what he was throwing until it was two feet away and by that time it was too late. It is pretty amazing.

NYF: Among the positional players, which prospect do you think has the highest upside in your opinion?

Milledge: That's another easy one. David Wright! He took me under his wing when I first signed and came to St. Lucie to mingle with the players and talk to them. Honestly? I didn't even know who he was until this past year. But that is great. I mean, hit like .368 at AA and had a great year. He really looked out for me my first year of practice. He's a great guy and is going to be a great ballplayer.

NYF: Well, we were looking more for a guy that was still in the minors. You know? A prospect that still has yet to reach the majors. For example, guys like Shawn Bowman, Ian Bladergroen, Jamar Hill. Those types of players.

Milledge: Well you just said it yourself there with those three guys. Each one of those guys finished in at least one, if not more more, of the top five in various categories in the Sally League. Those three will definitely be Big Leaguers in my opinion and each have really good upside.

NYF: You were in the Instructional Leagues this past fall. Which one player stood out in your mind as a possible surprise player, or "sleeper" prospect?

Milledge: I think Dante Brinkley is a guy that is very underrated and deserves more than he gets. He's a little guy but he's just a special player. He's going to pull a Juan Pierre on people and just come out of nowhere to be a very good Major League player for somebody. He just knows what it is all about and can do a lot of things on a baseball field. Mark my words - he's going to be a very special player!

NYfansonly.com would like to thank Lastings Milledge for taking the time to answer our questions this offseason.

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