• Eric Milton

    Posted by on July 28th, 2006 · Comments (21)

    The Yankees drafted Eric Milton in the 1st Round of the 1996 amateur entry draft. He was the 20th overall section in the draft.

    In 1997, his first pro-season, Milton was awesome. Splitting the season between Single-A and Double-A, Milton threw 171 innings, allowing only 137 hits and 50 walks. That works out to a WHIP of 1.09. In addition, in those 171 IP, Milton struck out 162 batters – which is a K/9IP rate of 8.53.

    At the end of the 1997, Milton was just 22-years-old and as blue-chip as a blue-chip pitching prospect could be in terms of potential.

    What did the Yankees do with him at that point? On February 6, 1998, they traded Milton, Brian Buchanan, Cristian Guzman, Danny Mota, and cash to the Minnesota Twins for Chuck Knoblauch.

    Eight years later, at the age of 29, Eric Milton was the second worst starting pitcher in the major leagues. Further, coming into this season, in 233 career major league starts, Milton’s career ERA was 4.99 (compared to a league average of 4.57).

    If the Yankees do end up trading Philip Hughes this season, before Yankees fans get too upset, they should think about Eric Milton.

    Where you’re drafted and how you pitch in the minors does not always mean that you will be a star.

    Comments on Eric Milton

    1. Marcus
      July 28th, 2006 | 12:33 pm

      Steve, you’re glossing over the stats. Milton was excellent when he started out in high A (9.16 K/9, 0.99 WHIP, 1.39 BB/9), but in AA he was merely above average, if that (7.76 K/9, 1.22 WHIP, 4.17 BB/9). That K/BB is very mediocre, if not bad. If a pitcher isn’t dominating in AA, you can’t expect them to do much in the major leagues.

      Hughes has been dominating the whole way. I know you’re just trying to spark debate, but so far your comparisons to Hughes have not been very close.

    2. MJ
      July 28th, 2006 | 12:44 pm

      “If the Yankees do end up trading Philip Hughes this season, before Yankees fans get too upset, they should think about Eric Milton.”

      Reverse the argument and substitute Jay Buhner or any other top prospect that we HAVE traded and gotten jack shit back in return.

      Steve, what are you so scared of? The worst thing that happens with Phil Hughes is that he comes up to NY and doesn’t pan out. I don’t see that as the end of the world. It would suck but the Yankees would get over it by playing their cards right and continuing their commitment to developing young players. That way, one botched prospect would be replaced by several more. It would be a lot worse if he does pan out and becomes an ace of someone else’s staff.

    3. July 28th, 2006 | 1:06 pm

      I’ve always been a big fan of the notion that you develop and keep position players – and that you acquire mature pitching.

      Young pitchers sometimes take 2 or 3 years to figure it out at the big league level – even the great ones.

      I think you should keep you position prospects, and, then, when they are ready, you trade your older players for pitchers. Or, you let the older players go FA and use that money saved to buy some pitchers.

      Yeah, a Pettitte and a Rivera are great.

      But, when the Yankees were going well it was Clemens, Cone, Wells, Mussina and other hired guns that carried the team.

      Let someone else deal with the learning curve of pitchers – and then once the pitcher is proven, then you go after him.

      If the Yankees can make a deal now, to ensure they make it to the WS, then I think Hughes should go, if needed.

      Let someone else nurse him for 6 years – and, then when he’s a star FA pitcher, buy him back then.

    4. baileywalk
      July 28th, 2006 | 1:23 pm

      Wow, this whole thing leaves me shaking my head. As much as I respect your opinion, Steve, I find your feelings toward Hughes utterly mind-boggling.

      Eric Milton was never the best pitching prospect in baseball. And Hughes just turned 20 and is dominating AA. Milton was older than him. Which means a lot.

      Pitching is the thing everyone wants. Pitching is the thing that everyone keeps. Even small-market teams lock up their good pitchers with long-term contracts. For once, the Yankees are the team with the pitcher everyone wants. He is our Sheets or Peavy or Santana or whoever.

      Philip Hughes is the best thing to happen for the Yanks in a long, long time. Instead of having to go out and buy someone else’s pitcher every year — like giving Zito fifteen million a year — we have someone from our own farm system that can help us. The value of this cannot be overestimated.

      Also, there’s a feeling with all these “failed pitching prospect” posts that you almost want to have an “I told you so” ready if Hughes doesn’t work out. Even if Hughes goes out and bombs, it’s still the right play to keep him. Because his potential is huge.

      A potential-ace pitching prospect is worth a lot more than a position-player prospect. Because pitching is scarce and pitching is what helps you win.

      (And since everyone is obsessed with the Red Sox, let’s bring them up: they had three big-time starting pitching prospects — Papelbon, Lester and Sanchez. Take a lot at what all three have done in the big leagues. Maybe the best of the bunch is Sanchez, who was traded to the Marlins. Do you think it would have been smart for the Sox to trade Lester and/or Papelbon for Carlos Lee or Tejada? And, also, would you be a happier man if the Yankees traded Wang for an outfielder or first baseman? I sure wouldn’t.)

    5. MJ
      July 28th, 2006 | 1:25 pm

      There isn’t that ONE player out there that would vault us into the World Series in 2006. Not Abreu, not Dontrelle, not Soriano, not Zito. If the Yanks were in the Mets’ shoes, yeah, I’d think about trading Hughes (or Millege) for Zito since they’re a lock for the playoffs this year but have no guarantees for 2007. But since the Yanks aren’t even assured of the playoffs in 2006, and since none of the best trade bait out there is enough to even guarantee us the playoffs, I’ll pass on trading Hughes. Certainly I’d pass on this crop of players for Hughes. If Santana and Liriano become available, call me and we’ll talk.

      And speaking of Santana and Liriano, where’s that 6 year waiting period for maturity you’re talking about? I would think that your rule of thumb applies to average talent. But when I look around the AL, I’m seeing young arms that had or are having an impact right away – Liriano, Santana, Papelbon, F-Rod in Anaheim, Zito, Verlander, Wang. Even Bonderman (a slightly above average dude) only took 1.5-2 years to develop and he did so on one of the most horrendous teams in recent baseball memory.

    6. Marcus
      July 28th, 2006 | 1:33 pm

      Steve,

      Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, Javier Vazquez, Jeff Weaver, etc. etc. all say “Hi!” Good starting pitching is hard to come by in the free agent/trade market these days. It’s not worth what you have to give up. You definitely can’t pass up when an opportunity presents itself, but you have to diversify your options. It limits your options and leaves you vulnerable to overpaying for mediocre free agents.

      “You trade your older players for pitchers.” Wishful thinking. Nobody’s trading quality pitching for veterans. They want prospects, or cheap young major leaguers.

      I second baileywalk’s thoughts also.

    7. baileywalk
      July 28th, 2006 | 1:43 pm

      Just for a little comparison, here’s what Milton did in AA and what Hughes is currently doing in AA:

      Milton: 77.2 IP, 59 hits, 36 BB, 67 SO, 3.13 ERA.

      Hughes: 86 IP, 63 hits, 26 BB, 98 SO, 2.83 ERA.

      And he’s two years younger.

    8. July 28th, 2006 | 1:56 pm

      I just checked the 1998 STATS Inc. Minor League Scouting Notebook by John Sickels.

      In that book, Eric Milton was listed as the 26th best prospect in *all of baseball.*

      Milton was listed in the book as the 7th best pitching prospect in *all of baseball.*

      Milton was listed in the book at *the best* LH-pitching prospect in *all of baseball.*

      Trust me, at the end of 1997, Milton was everything that people are saying about Hughes now.

    9. July 28th, 2006 | 2:02 pm

      BTW, the TOP TWO pitching prospects in the 1998 book were Carl Pavano and Kerry Wood.

      Like I said, with pitching prospects, you never know.

    10. MJ
      July 28th, 2006 | 2:09 pm

      Hence by your “never know” logic, every young pitcher should be traded since they’re unpredictable. I mean, if Milton, Wood, and Pavano could flop/succumb to the injury plague, then clearly Hughes should be someone else’s headache.

      If you’re satisfied with what our staff has looked like since Clemens and Pettitte went to Houston (Moose, RJ, Vazquez, Contreras, Loiaza, Pavano, Wright, Chacon, Brown, Ponson, Wang, Small) then I suppose trading Hughes makes sense since the Yankees are so clearly satisfied with the crap-level pitchers we’ve been putting out there the past 2.5 seasons (Moose, RJ, Wang notwithstanding).

      Steve, point blank, who should the Yankees trade Hughes for? Does one of the following (Abreu/Soriano/Zito/Craig Wilson/Dontrelle/Reggie Sanders) excite you?

    11. July 28th, 2006 | 2:35 pm

      No. I would not give Hughes away. But, if I could get something that would mean the pennant, for sure, then I would make the deal.

      You don’t trade Hughes for a rent-a-player or a 4th SP or a spare part.

    12. Don
      July 28th, 2006 | 2:35 pm

      Steve, all you have offered is to trade Hughes for a bag-of-donuts.

      An Abreu will not put the team over the top to win the WS. Nor will ‘rent-me Soriano’.

      Dontrelle Willis could well put them over the top to win the WS.

      That is the only type of trade that you make using Hughes. For a young, already proven, high quality starting pitcher.

    13. July 28th, 2006 | 3:10 pm

      “Steve, all you have offered is to trade Hughes for a bag-of-donuts. ”

      When did I do that?

    14. JohnnyC
      July 28th, 2006 | 5:12 pm

      No one’s trading Willis or Santana or Liriano for a pitching prospect, as good as Hughes might be. To use your own reasoning, Steve, a major-league-ready postion player with superstar potential (see Milledge or Delmon Young)would be the foundation of any trade for a young, proven, stud pitcher like that. Hughes would be part of a package…and unless you’re thinking of trading Hughes, Tabata, Duncan, Gardner, AND JB Cox for Willis or Santana, it ain’t gonna happen. Nor should it. Even Dontrelle Willis isn’t worth those 4 kids. This year or anytime in the next few years.

    15. Don
      July 28th, 2006 | 6:39 pm

      Steve….. Bag-of-donuts = Aaron Cook.

      I’d trade Hughes and Duncan for Willis.

    16. July 28th, 2006 | 9:59 pm

      Then I gues Wang is a bag of doughnuts too.

    17. baileywalk
      July 28th, 2006 | 10:29 pm

      Not to keep this up or anything, but Jeremy Sowers just pitched his second consecutive shutout. So to go along with Kazmir, Liriano and Verlander, now you have Sowers as yet another example of why we shouldn’t trade Hughes.

    18. July 28th, 2006 | 11:02 pm

      There are always exceptions. But, the odds favor a prospect, even a super one, not working – rather than being someone who will star.

      It’s a crap shoot – and, that’s my point.

      It can go either way – so, I guess it depends if you like to gamble or not.

    19. baileywalk
      July 28th, 2006 | 11:23 pm

      What you don’t seem to get is that the bigger gamble is giving him away. It hurts much worse to give away a Kazmir and watch him be lights-out while you struggle to find pitching than to keep him and take that “risk.” It’s better to go for the high reward, because the result could be, and has a good chance of being, quite spectacular.

      And the bust-to-success rate seems like conjecture on your part (on offense). If you go back ten or so years — since pitchers seem much more mature and ready nowadays — I bet it’s even or in favor of the prospects (if you only include people who were considered prospects once they were in AA, which is the proving ground).

    20. baileywalk
      July 28th, 2006 | 11:24 pm

      And by the way, Steve, would the Yankees be better off right now if they traded Wang two years ago for a bat?

    21. Don
      July 29th, 2006 | 1:54 am

      Steve, Aaron Cook is pitching in a pitcher’s league, or rather a lack of hitting league. You really would trade Hughes for him?

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