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.
OXON HILL, MD — Edwin Encarnacion began the offseason as, arguably, the second most desirable free agent on the market. As the Winter Meetings approach their end, however, he is a man without a team. And may not have a team any time soon.
Many teams have been rumored to be checking in on Encarnacion, but the defining trait of his free agency thus far has been clubs taking a pass. The most recent one being the Rangers, who are reported to simply not have the money to sign him, despite him filling a clear offensive need in Texas. Maybe the Rangers would be more competitive on the free agent market if they had a new stadium. Who knows?
The Blue Jays, for whom he most recently played, offered him a four-year, $80 million deal that most figured was a lowball, and when he rejected it, they moved on to Kendrys Morales. The Red Sox acquired Mitch Moreland. The Yankees are reported to be passing. The most recent team linked to Encarnacion is the Indians, who are reported to have an offer out to him, but at this point it’s likely far lower than what most free agent watchers thought he might get a few weeks ago. A four-year, $90 million deal did not seem crazy for him in October. In December, there is speculation that he could be had for $60 million over that same term which, frankly, would be a bargain. That’s less than Mark Melancon, the third best closer on the market, got from the Giants.
There have been a lot of remarkable things that have happened in the past few weeks, but one of the most unexpected things would be one of the top bats in the game getting second-tier closer money.
OXON HILL, MD — Bill King has been selected as the 2017 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
King, one of the iconic voices of Bay Area sports, was known for his handlebar mustache and his signature “Holy Toledo!” exclamation. King broadcast A’s games for 25 seasons, from 1981 through 2005. He likewise broadcast Oakland Raiders and Golden State Warriors games and got his start as an announcer for the Giants in the late 1950s after they moved to San Francisco.
King passed away in October 2005. With the Frick Award, however, he has now been immortalized among baseball broadcasters.