Since the Rule 4 draft was instituted in 1965, 33 of the 54 players selected with the 12th overall pick have gone on to make a major league debut. Of those players, twenty-four produced positive value for their team. Many of those players went on to have outstanding careers, most notably Nomar Garciaparra, Kirk Gibson, Jered Weaver, Billy Wagner, and Jay Bruce, among others.
Thanks to their 77-85 record in 2011, the Mets had the twelfth overall selection in the 2012 MLB Draft. With their pick, they selected Gavin Cecchini, a shortstop from Alfred M. Barbe High School in Lake Charles, Louisiana. At the time of his selection, Cecchini was considered a low variance high-floor/low-ceiling prospect. Amazin’ Avenue’s Alex Nelson said of him, “He’s not a guy who impresses you with his tools or his upside, but he’s a polished player who presents a total package that is appealing in an up-the-middle defender.”
Cecchini signed for $2.3 million, roughly $250,000 under slot value, and began his professional career with the Kingsport Mets, where he hit .246/.311/.330 in 53 games. He appeared in a handful of games with the Brooklyn Cyclones at the end of the 2012 season, and was ranked 11 in Amazin’ Avenue’s 2013 Top 50 Prospects list. Cecchini was assigned to Brooklyn for the entirety of the 2013 season and hit .273/.319/.314, leading him to be ranked 13 in Amazin’ Avenue’s Top 25 Prospects for 2014 list. The 20-year-old shortstop began the season with the Savannah Sand Gnats and hit .259/.333/.408 in 57 games. He was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets mid-season and hit .236/.325/.352 in 68 games before finishing out the season with a promotion to the Binghamton Mets for a single game, where he went 1-4. Amazin’ Avenue ranked Cecchini 10 on Top 25 Mets Prospects for 2015 list.
The 21-year-old had a breakout season in 2015. In 109 games for the Binghamton Mets, Cecchini hit .317/.377/.442, walking 42 times to 55 strikeouts, launching 7 home runs, and stealing 3 bases in 7 attempts. A major reason for the breakout was because of the fact that he altered his mechanics at the plate, eliminating the high leg kick he used in favor of a wider stance and a toe tap, which gave him more time to adjust to breaking balls. Thanks to the breakout, Cecchini came into the 2016 season as the Mets’ third top prospect. He began the season with the Las Vegas 51s and hit .325/.390/.448 in 117 games before earning himself a major league promotion in mid-September. He appeared in four games and accrued seven plate appearances, going 2-6 with two doubles and two strikeouts. Despite a strong showing during the season and during in the Arizona Fall League, Amazin’ Avenue ranked Cecchini 7 on our Top 25 Mets Prospects for 2017 list, citing his BABIP-fueled contact-over-power profile and his limited defensive value. Spending a second consecutive season in Las Vegas, Cecchini’s BABIP plummeted from .357 in 2016 to .298 in 2017 and his batting line tumbled to .267/.329/.380 in 110 games. He didn’t perform well in his two stints at the major league level either, the first in mid-June and the second from mid-August until the end of the season, hitting a combined .208/.256/.273 82 plate appearances over 32 games.
Going into the 2018 season, Cecchini did not appear on our top prospect list for the first time since being drafted. The 24-year-old rebounded a bit in 2018, starting off the season strong. In 30 games over the first month-plus of the season, he hit .294/.342/.468. On May 9th, he was hit in the foot by a pitch, and while the x-rays for a break came up negative, the bruise kept the infielder sidelined for months, in effect ending his season. He made a single appearance with the St. Lucie Mets on August 31, going 2-4, but played no more baseball for the rest of the season. Coming into the 2019, Cecchini was once again not ranked on our top prospect list. The 25-year-old was designated for assignment in late January and cleared waivers, being assigned to the Syracuse Mets. He has yet to appear in a game.
Thanks to their 75-86 record in 2002, the Mets had the twelfth overall selection in the 2002 MLB Draft. With their pick, they selected Lastings Milledge, an outfielder from Lakewood Ranch High School in Bradenton, Florida who was coming off a season that saw him hit .414 with 10 home runs and 42 stolen bases. Considered a five-tool prospect with multiple tools grading out as 7s and 8s by professional scouts and evaluators, Milledge had the potential to be a perennial All-Star and would have easily been drafted with the very first pick of the 2003 MLB Draft had it not been for sexual misconduct allegations. A few weeks before the draft, media outlets picked up on stories that Milledge had been expelled from Northside Christian High School for “lewd and lascivious” activities. His father, Tony Milledge, semi-accurately predicted that “[Lastings] might go 30th instead of first.” After the draft, new reports emerged that Milledge, who would have been 16 or 17, had not only engaged in sexual activities with his 15-year-old girlfriend, but possibly even students as young as 12 or 13. No proof of the allegations were ever produced, no charges were ever filed, and satisfied with the results of their own internal investigations, the Mets signed Milledge, agreeing to a $1.89 million signing bonus.
Though he signed late, Milledge was able to get his professional career started in 2003, appearing in 7 games for the Kingsport Mets. It began in earnest a year later when, as a combination of his own talent and the Mets’ organizational philosophy of aggressively promoting prospects, he was assigned to the team’s Low-A affiliate, the Capital City Bombers. The 19-year-old handled the challenging assignment as if it was nothing, hitting .315/.382/.545 in 65 games with 17 walks, 53 strikeouts, 13 home runs, and 23 stolen bases in 29 attempts. He was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets midseason and in 22 games hit .235/.319/.432, walking 9 times, striking out 21 times, launching 2 home runs, and stealing 3 bases in 5 attempts. Considered a top prospect in all of baseball, Milledge began the 2004 season with the St. Lucie Mets and performed much better in his second taste of Florida State League baseball. In 62 games, the 20-year-old outfielder hit .302/.385/.418, drawing 19 walks to 41 strikeouts, hitting 4 home runs, and stealing 18 bases in 31 attempts. He was promoted to the Binghamton Mets midseason and only did better when facing more advanced pitching, hitting .337/.392/.487 with 14 walks to 47 strikeouts, 4 home runs, and 11 stolen bases in 16 attempts.
After scorching the Arizona Fall League, the 21-year-old outfielder was assigned to the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate, the Norfolk Tides, to begin the 2006 season. Nearly two months into the season, he got the call from Omar Minaya that he was being promoted to the big league club, and on May 30th, he made his MLB debut, hitting a double in four trips to the plate against the Arizona Diamondbacks. All in all, he hit he hit .277/.388/.440 in 84 games with the Tides and .241/.310/.380 in 56 games with the Mets as the youngest player in the National League that season. After an impressive spring training, Milledge made the big league club to start the 2007 season but saw very limited playing time and was optioned to New Orleans, where the Mets’ new Triple-A affiliate played. He missed considerable time due to a sprained ligament in his right foot and was called up to the Mets when he healed, meaning Milledge spent more time on the major league roster than in the minor leagues that year. All in all, the 22-year-old outfielder hit .272/.341/.446 in 206 plate appearances with the Mets, and his future looked bright.
On November 30, 2007, Milledge was traded to the Washington Nationals for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. Many factors went into the trade, and while it certainly was an example of bad process, the move didn’t exactly blow up in the Mets’ faces. Ryan Church and Brian Schneider had solid-if-unspectacular careers as Mets, while Milledge didn’t exactly blossom. He played 138 games with the Nationals in 2008, hitting .268/.330/.402, his best season in the MLB. In 2009, the 24-year-old got to an extremely slow start and was optioned down to the Syracuse Chiefs, the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate in mid-April. A few months later, he was traded along with Joel Hanrahan to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Sean Burnett and Nyjer Morgan. Milledge only got 239 plate appearances with the Pirates that season, as he had sustained an injury while playing in Triple-A, but he hit a solid-yet-underwhelming .291/.333/.395. In 2010, he played 113 games with his new ball club and got 412 plate appearances, during which he hit .277/.332/.380. The Pirates declined to tender the 25-year-old outfielder a contract, making him a free agent. The Chicago White Sox signed him, and Milledge made the team out of spring training, but after only four plate appearances, they designated him for assignment and sent him to the Charlotte Knights, their Triple-A affiliate. He accepted the assignment and spent the rest of the 2011 season in the International League, where he hit in .295/.364/.441 in 123 games.
A free agent, Milledge signed with the Yakult Swallows of Nippon Professional Baseball. With room on their roster to sign one more foreign player and looking to increase their power, the team signed the outfielder for $570,000 at the exchange rate at the time, with performance bonuses and a club option for 2013 worth roughly $1.1 million. His career in Japan didn’t get off to a good start, as he missed his flight and arrived in Japan late, but he quickly endeared himself to teammates and fans. Nicknamed “Spam”, because the processed ham product was one of a handful of things he felt was safe to eat in Japan, not particularly liking rice, noodles, or other Japanese dishes, he hit .300/.379/.485 with 21 home runs in 125 games.
Milledge remained in Japan through the 2015 season, but he was never able to recapture the success of his 2012 season. The 28-year-old hit an underwhelming .251/.329/.436 in 2013 and missed the last two months of the season after fouling a ball off of his left leg on August 4 and crashing into the wall attempting to make a catch in the outfield, rupturing two ligaments in his left ankle. He never fully recovered, getting into only 10 games in 2014 and 24 in 2015. At age 32, Milledge signed with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League and hit .270/.337/.338 in 85 games.
His experience with the Barnstormers made him realize that he liked being a mentor. Seemingly having hung up his cleats for good, Lastings Milledge owns and coaches at a pair of baseball training academies with an emphasis on giving minority children and teenagers an opportunity play and learn the business of baseball: 1st Round Training in Palmetto, Florida and Manatee Innercity Baseball in Bradenton.