RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: November 28, 1989
Height: 6′ 1″
Drafted: 20th Round, 594th Overall, 2008
How Acquired: Draft
High School: Shawnee HS (Medford, NJ)
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Miller was one of a number of players selected by the Pirates who fell in the 2008 draft due to bonus demands. Baseball America rated him the 158th best draft prospect and the best prospect in New Jersey. He missed much of his junior year due to tendonitis. In high school he threw a fastball that sometimes was in the 86-90 range and sometimes 93-94, as well as a good slider and average change. He had a commitment to North Carolina. The Pirates drafted players in the later rounds who figured to be hard to sign with the idea that they’d make a run at some of those players if they were unable to sign one or more of their earlier choices. I n Miller’s case, the idea may have been to sign either him or 10th round pick Drew Gagnon. After it became clear on the day before the deadline that Gagnon would not sign, the Pirates signed Miller the next day for $900,000.
In what would eventually become a pattern for the Pirates’ handling of highly regarded prep draftees, Miller made his pro debut with State College rather than in the GCL. What would not become a pattern was that, after just two starts there, they moved him up to West Virginia and he spent the rest of the year in the Power rotation. His ERA wasn’t impressive, but his performance was encouraging considering that he was drafted out of high school, was considered raw at the time, and was essentially skipping short season ball. His velocity was up to 94 at times, he didn’t give up a lot of hits (.245 opponents’ BA), and his walk and K rates, while not good, weren’t terrible. It’s also significant that he had no health problems, given the history of tendonitis and the fact that he’s not a big guy and throws with a good deal of effort.
After starting the year back in the West Virginia rotation, Miller went on DL with biceps tendonitis, which plagued him for much of remainder of season. Between the Power and a rehab stint at State College, he made 14 starts and struggled in the majority of the ones at West Virginia. Opponents hit .309 against him in the SAL. At times his velocity was down in the high-80s and at times it was in the low-90s.
Opened the season in the Bradenton rotation and struggled through 14 starts and one relief appearance before going out for the year with tightness in his back. Miller was hit hard most of the time, with a .321 opponents’ BA. He fanned only a batter every other inning. He did pitch well in three of four June starts before leaving his first July start with the back problem.
Miller was healthy in camp in 2012 and was throwing very well, sitting at 91-94. He opened the season as the Bradenton closer, but he struggled right from the start, blowing quite a few games for the Marauders. He actually stayed healthy, pitching in relief all year, but he didn’t pitch any better than in 2011. He improved his K rate, but his walk rate more than doubled. He had a lot of trouble with left-handed batters, who batted .311 against him with a lot of walks. He pitching did not improve noticeably over the course of the season.
Miller started the season back in the Bradenton bullpen, then was promoted to Altoona after ten appearances. The promotion was more due to need than merit, although Miller didn’t have nearly the struggles that he’d had the previous three years. He wasn’t hit that hard — opponents batted .236 against him at Altoona — but he had a lot of control problems. In AA, he had just a 5:4 K:BB ratio. On the season, he had a reverse platoon split, with lefties posting a .658 OPS against him and righties .735. He made two starts in AA and they went surprisingly well. He allowed a total of three runs on seven hits in nine innings.
The Pirates sent Miller back to Altoona, although he didn’t pitch until late April. He stayed with the Curve until the second week of July, when he went on the disable list for the rest of the season. When he was able to pitch, he struggled, more than the ERA indicates, mainly due to control problems. He especially had trouble getting left-handed hitters out, allowing them an OBP of .433.
Miller has one more year before minor league free agency. If he’s ready to pitch, the Pirates will probably try him at Altoona again.