Brent Lillibridge is the new Ben Zobrist?

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There are some definite similarities. Neither was particularly heralded coming out of college.  Lillibridge was the Pirates’ fourth-round pick in 2005. Zobrist was a sixth-rounder a year earlier. Both primarily played shortstop coming up. Both were very good on-base guys in the minors who struggled mightily in their initial looks in the majors. Lillibridge hit .194/254/.297 in 273 at-bats for the Braves and White Sox from 2008-10, his age 24-26 season.  Zobrist his .200/.234/.275 in 280 at-bats for the Rays in 2006-07, his age-25-26 seasons.

Zobrist busted out at age 27 before turning in an MVP-caliber season at 28.

Lillibridge certainly seems to be busting out at age 27. He just took Tim Wakefield deep in the game against the Red Sox for his sixth homer in 63 at-bats this season. In his previous at-bat, he hit a double high off the Green Monster that would hit have been a homer in any other ballpark. For the season, he’s at .317/.397/.683.

Of course, 60 at-bats is still a pretty small sample. And Lillibridge doesn’t quite have Zobrist’s track record. While unlike Zobrist, he made a Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list, coming in at No. 93 after hitting .305/.419/.480 for two A-ball teams in 2006, he was never very good in the high minors. In fact, he was a career .255/.321/.379 hitter in 1,247 Triple-A at-bats.  Zobrist was much better, hitting .301/.416/.464 in 362 Triple-A at-bats.

Still, the White Sox need to play Lillibridge every day to see if this is a fluke or not. He’s not a paricularly good defender in the infield, but he’s excellent in the outfield corners, as he showed in a win over the Yankees earlier this season. He doesn’t have to keep hitting like this in order to be an upgrade over Juan Pierre.

Rays trade Jake Odorizzi to Twins

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The Rays have traded right-hander Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, per team announcements on Saturday evening. The Twins will receive minor league shortstop Jermaine Palacios in the deal. Despite previous speculation, recently-DFA’d outfielder Corey Dickerson was not included in the trade.

With Odorizzi, the Twins finally have the front-end starter they’ve been seeking all winter. It’s a bargain deal as well, as the 27-year-old righty is under contract through 2019 and didn’t require the club to part with any of their top-shelf prospects in the trade. Odorizzi will be looking to stage a comeback in 2018 after a dismal performance with the Rays last year, during which he eked out a career-worst 4.14 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 through 143 1/3 innings.

Palacios, 21, ranked no. 27 in the Twins’ system last season. He split his year between Single-A Cedar Rapids and High-A Fort Myers, raking a combined .296/.333/.454 with 13 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 539 plate appearances. He’s expected to continue developing at shortstop, though he’s also seen limited time at second and third base during his four-year career in the minors.