Brent Lillibridge has been a story with its ups and downs since the shortstop was acquired from Pittsburgh in the Adam LaRoche-Mike Gonzalez deal this off-season. He had become a member of the most underrated prospects in the game to many after hitting .305/.419/.480 in 2006. Scouts loved his tools and the only real question about him was his age. During his impressive '06 campaign, the University of Washington product was 22-years old, playing his way through single-A and high-A. At that age, a prospect with a major-league future is normally expected to be a little higher in the minor league ranks.
Those concerns became much more pronounced with his start to the season. At 23, Brent was moved up to double-A Mississippi and the power, base-stealing, and plate discipline that had made him such an exciting prospect sunk to dangerously low levels. Lillibridge finished his 204 at bats with Mississippi, hitting .275/.355/.387 as well as being caught in 7 out of his 21 stolen base attempts. He probably didn't deserve a call-up to Richmond, but the Braves needed to replace Yunel Escobar, who had gotten the call to Atlanta. His time in Richmond started quite the same way. Lillibridge hit .260/.304/.331 in 127 at bats before the All-Star break with Richmond. His power and plate discipline had completely disappeared, although his base running was back to normal. At this point, many around baseball thought the speedy shortstop might be destined for a utility role in the majors.
Lillibridge got a puzzling invite to the MLB Futures Game that has become of the All-Star festivities. He was miserable in the game as he went hitless with a couple strikeouts, but something just seemed to click after that. Since the break, Lillibridge has been mashing away as the starting shortstop for Richmond. Maybe it is partly a product of being moved down in the order, but in 26 games since then, Lillibridge is hitting .393/.455/.674 with five home runs, ten stolen bases (two caught stealing), and a K/BB of 12/9. Even more impressive, in his last ten games, Lillibridge is hitting .528 with seven extra base hits and four stolen bases. What should we think of this guy now? Coming into the season he was easily considered the superior prospect to Yunel Escobar. Yunel's stock shot up and Lillibridge's had plummeted early. To me I see a two guys with great gloves in Escobar and Lillibridge, but Lillibridge has more home run power, extra base power, can get on base more, and has loads more speed. I think he could beat out Escobar for the job but I doubt the organization would give him the chance.