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.

Padres may have more interest in Dallas Keuchel than Bryce Harper

Dallas Keuchel
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An interesting tidbit today from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who noted that ongoing talks between agent Scott Boras and the Padres have focused more on starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel than slugger Bryce Harper. Earlier this week, there were conflicting reports on the Padres’ level of interest in Harper — MLB Network’s Jon Heyman heard the club had not ruled out another big signing after getting Manny Machado, while Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune talked to multiple sources who believed otherwise — but any agreement between the two is looking unlikelier by the day.

As for Keuchel, Rosenthal cautions that a potential deal is still a “longshot,” especially as the team has other, cheaper options in mind. The 31-year-old southpaw turned down a qualifying offer from the Astros last year and is likely angling for something north of the five-year, $90 million contract extension he rejected from the club in 2016. He’s coming off of another solid performance in Houston, where he went 12-11 in 34 starts with a 3.74 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 6.7 SO/9, and 3.6 fWAR through 204 2/3 innings in 2018.

While Keuchel has failed to garner substantial interest around the league this offseason, Heyman points out that the Phillies are looking to establish themselves as frontrunners for the lefty — and they’re far less likely to have hang-ups about his asking price, too.