2019 Prospect Discussion, 3 of … ; Erik Miller

This is an open format for minor league prospect  discussion.  Today’s subject is Erik Miller.  These articles will mostly be about players I have actually seen.  So, they be mostly from the lower levels of the organization.  If you have someone in particular you want to hear about, put the name in the comments section.  If I’ve seen enough to warrant a post, I’ll strongly consider it.

Erik Miller was the Phillies 4th round pick (third overall since they forfeited their second round pick when they signed Harper) in the 2019 draft out of Stanford University.  He was the first of four straight pitchers selected and signed by the Phillies.

The Phillies broke from recent history and signed pitchers with big arms early rather than the series of soft-tossing, control pitchers in past drafts.  Miller has a seriously big arm.  And, he’s left-handed!

Miller was signed after completing his junior year.  He is 21 years old.  The 6’5, 240 lb., left-handed pitcher entered Stanford as the captain of his high school team, a 2016 Prep Baseball USA Top 25 selection, a 2016 Baseball America USA Top 25 selection, a 2016 U.S. Army Reserve Scholar Athlete, and a Member of the 2015 18U USA Baseball National Team.

As a freshman at Stanford, Miller was a mid-week starter.  He went 5-2, 3.65 ERA with 1 save in 61.2 innings.  He walked 34 batters and made 13 starts among his 17 appearances.  In his last 7 starts, he had a 2.05 ERA (the team went 7-0).  He allowed the second fewest runs (28), third fewest hits (62), fifth fewest earned runs allowed (25), eighth fewest walks (21) in the PAC-12.  He threw seven scoreless innings in first career start.

As a sophomore, Miller started 13 games.  He went 4-4 with a 4.07 ERA and struck out 52 and walked 23 batters in 48.2 innings.  He struck out a career-high nine batters in a four-inning appearance in February against Rice.

As a junior, Miller started 16 games.  He went 8-3 with a 3.48 ERA and struck out 102 and walked 46 batters in 82.2 innings.  These were some of his highlights.

  • one hit and 9 strike outs on a career-high 101 pitches in a six inning win over Texas
  • struck out 8 batters in 5.0 shutout innings in a win over Washington
  • struck out a career-high 11 batters in 6.0 shutout innings in a win over Oregon
  • struck out eight batters  in 5.2 shutout innings in a win over California
  • struck out a career-high 12 batters in 5.2 innings in a win over Fresno State

Miller went into his junior season as a member of the Baseball America Preseason All-America Second Team.  He was PAC-12 All Academic honorable mention (Engineering).  He was the 120th overall pick in the June draft.

Miller arrived at the Complex with the reputation of having a mid-to-upper-90s fastball.  After his first appearance where he topped out at 95-96 mph, we asked him about the scouting reports.  Miller said, yeah he throw 97 mph, but has better control if he throttles it back a bit.  (That’s pretty smart.  Catch the scouts’ attention with the heat in college, but know you have to throw strikes once you’re in the pros.)

Miller made 2 appearances for the GCL West.  In 3.0 innings, he posted a 3.00 ERA on 2 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, and 6 strike outs.  It was impressive to hear the catcher’s glove pop and to see all the 95s and 96s on the radar gun.  But, unfortunately, he was too good for the GCL and was shipped off to Williamsport.

Miller was just as good with the Crosscutters.  In 6 appearances (4 starts), he posted a 0.90 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 20.0 innings.  He walked 7 and struck out 29 batters.  He was rewarded with a late-season promotion to Lakewood.

Miller made 3 appearances (2 starts) for the BlueClaws.  He posted a 2.08 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 13.0 innings.  He walked 6 and struck out 17 batters.  He also picked up his first win as a professional.

Across 3 levels, Miller went 1-0, 1.50 ERA, 1.11 WHIP 1.88 AVG against, 11 games, 7 starts, 36.0 IP, 25 hits, 5 ER, 15 walks (3.8/9), and 52 strike outs (13.0/9).  He hasn’t allowed a HR.

I often caution against getting our hopes up on players at these levels.  But, I wrote, “The 21-year-old LHP might be the most exciting pitcher selected in the 2019 draft.  He has a big arm that can get it up there at 97 mph, but has shown a willingness to sacrifice a mile or two of velocity to command his fastball.”  in The Fourth Annual Phillies Minor League Digest.  So, even I can get carried away on a SSS.

It’s apparent that Miller needs to upgrade his control to command.  If you subscribe theory that a pitcher should average 15 pitches per inning, a look at his game logs in Williamsport and Lakewood indicate that he is not quite there, yet.  Lowering his BB/9 is also important as he moves up through the higher levels.  The Phillies have shown that they won’t bring a pitcher to the majors who can’t consistently throw strikes (see, EDLS).

In my world, Miller continues to improve and move up the ladder.  He starts 2020 in Lakewood and is quickly promoted to Clearwater.  After a short stay, he is bumped up to Reading where they are supposed to be using the major league ball.  He handles the promo well, and is ready for Lehigh Valley or the Phillies by 2021.

  • Bats left, Throws left
  • 6’5, 240 lb.
  • Born February 13, 1998 (age 21), Saint Louis, MO
  • Drafted in the 4th round of the 2019 Amateur Draft out of Stanford
  • 2019; GCL Phillies West, Williamsport, Lakewood

 

Photo by Mark Wylie

20 thoughts on “2019 Prospect Discussion, 3 of … ; Erik Miller

  1. Great promotional piece, even though it is informative, but it got me so excited!

    I can see him in Phillies rotation late 2021, replacing Arrieta. Seems like every lefty
    starter has control issues.

  2. Jimmy did you take notice of his off speed pitches what they are, what type of shape they have etc…?

    One of the big tech pieces I am a believer in is the tunneling aspect of a pitchers repertoire so also wondering if any of the younger pitchers appear to be investing in that aspect of their game/delivery?

        1. h man…forgot al about that Stanford pitchers’ curse……the good thing about Miller….he was not a first round pick.

    1. DMAR, he was in Clearwater for such a short time, I almost didn’t write about him. In his three innings down here, he probably threw 35-40 pitches. I was so focused on his fastball, I really didn’t notice/can’t remember his off speed stuff. I thought I would have a little more time with him, but the promotion made sense.

        1. I heard today, they are strongly considering starting him in Clearwater. Be still my beating heart. Oh, he has a change up as his primary secondary pitch. Pretty good one that has improved since the draft.

  3. They’re going to the major league ball at AA next year? I hadn’t heard that. The Reading offense numbers could really be high next year.
    Miller has a great arm, the kind we should be looking for. However, caution, he has a long way to go from 5 walks per 9 to the majors. He had to get that way down. Some guys can do it and others never learn. Fingers crossed!

    1. Yes, I heard about the balls at the Complex during the summer. But, I also heard they were going to use them in the AFL. AA makes so much sense. Especially since teams not in red pinstripes used jump guys from AA to the majors. The drawback was cost, but I’ve heard they now have enough in backlog that they can introduce them at another level. It’s been a couple of months, I can’t remember my source.

  4. Thanks jim, I am very high on Miller, and look for him to have a big year. I hope you are correct, and he pitches at 3 levels this coming season. These reports are terrific.

    1. Yeah, I kinda forced him into a “modified Nola” route to the majors. If he can be in Clearwater by the end of June, he could arrive in Reading by August. Then to the Phillies by July 2021. He’s as high risk as all the new guys, but I saw something that makes me an irrational fan. Hope I’m close to being right.

  5. it is exciting to have high-end power arms in the system with high ceilings. as you said, a great departure from prior drafts. I wonder if that change in strategy influenced JA’s decision to step down. Wonder if he disagreed with that change in approach. Either way, it is a good change. And I am excited to watch him as a prospect.

    1. No, it was purely a personal decision. Any of us with a family would have done the same thing. I can’t/won’t go into details.

      I’ve still got a few more arms to talk about. I had become accustomed to seeing pitchers whose fastball range started in the upper 80s and reached the low 90s. This season, I’ve got another 17 guys whose low-end was 90 or above with some reaching as high as 95 mph for their high-end. How’s that for a tease.

  6. The data on Miller’s progression from a Freshman to Junior at Stanford and his first season with the Phillies shows a steady BB/9 improvement…He’s not contact pitcher. Never has been from what I’ve seen. He’s a “I’m going to strike you out” type of pitcher who will beat you with his FB or secondary pitches. The Phillies know what he has to improve and will address it but good Lord when is the last time we had a potential LHP who will register 13K/9 and get nasty with hitters?

  7. I love the Erik Miller pick – Miller is the LHP with the highest ceiling in the farm. Even as a high leverage lefty pen arm – that is still a good value for a 4th rd pick.

    Big lefty with 2 potential plus pitch (FB-SL), Miller is an easy Top 10 prospect for the Phillies.

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