Dodgers Top Prospects - Greg Miller #50A

Our annual series starts today, December 14. Over the next weeks we will outline out top minor league prospects in the Los Angeles Dodgers system. This officially is the start of our fourth annual LADodgers.com Top 50 Prospect List.

They will be presented on a daily basis, Monday through Friday, which will carry us well beyond the New Year and culminate in our choice as the #1 pick in the minor league system coming into the 2009 season.

In terms of qualification, any player in the Los Angeles minor league system is eligible, including those on the 40-man roster, as long as they have not exhausted their MLB rookie designation. As a reminder, to lose rookie status, a player needs 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched or more than 45 days on the active roster from April through August, excluding time on the disabled list.

We will reference the rankings of the past three seasons on each member of the 2009 listing.

The process was conducted by Bill Shelley over the first three years, using his deep knowledge of the Dodgers minor league system plus input from various other sources. This is the first time I will be flying solo on the project and promise that I will conduct the same exhausting research for the 2009 listings. We welcome comments on any of our picks and invite you to communicate by writing us at tot4@mac.com.

We will break with tradition right at the get-go. Our first listing is one that we have never used, and with good reason. As you check it out, you will understand.

No. 1-50 LHP Greg Miller
6-5 220 bats and throws left
Born November 3, 1984
Acquired- Supplemental first-round selection 2002
2003 Ranking #1 - Dodger Pitcher of the Year
LADugout ranking:
2006 Ranking #10
2007 Ranking #8
2008 Ranking #10

Making out a list of the 2009 top 50 players is quite a difficult selection process and ranking them in order is even more difficult. We agonized over Greg Miller's ranking for a long time before we made the decision that we couldn't make a decision.

Greg Miller could be ranked from 1 through 50 depending on a terrible problem he has been suffering from over the past two years. This young man was the Dodgers Pitcher of the Year in his second season at age 18 in 2003, setting a precedent that has been unmatched since. He was Clayton Kershaw before Clayton Kershaw, perhaps even better at that age.

In his second season, 2003, he was 11-4, 2.49 at Vero Beach and 1-1 with a 1.01 ERA at Jacksonville. But he missed the 2004 season completely after what was supposed to be minor shoulder surgery.

Because of the shoulder problem, he only pitched in 21 games (34.2 innings) in 2005 and 44 games (59.2 innings) in 2006 as he recovered. He started with a blaze in 2006, allowing only two hits in his first 22.2 innings (0.79 ERA) while winning one and saving one. He ran into shoulder soreness and went on the disabled list in July.

He reported himself healthy, finally, in 2007. With his fastball still tracking in the upper 90s and a dazzling curve ball, his short stay with Triple-A Las Vegas was a disaster. Home plate suddenly shrunk to the size of a matchbook and proportionally his earned run average ballooned to 7.85 ERA.

Delighted to be back and healthy, he apparently put too much pressure on himself to succeed at that level. So he was dropped back to Double-A Jacksonville to get straightened out. He was clocked at 98 in Las Vegas, at 97 with Jacksonville. That plus his wicked curve. He still had all the quality pitches of a future big league star.

In 2007 and 2008 he went from striking out 151 and walking 48 in 2003 at the age of 18 to walked 152 batters in 131 innings over the past two seasons. He had ranked in the top 10 in hits allowed nearly every season (career: 336 hits in 405 innings - 7.47 per nine innings). This season he allowed more hits than innings pitched for the first time in his career, trying desperately to get the ball over he plate at any cost.

This was one of the premier left-handed prospects in all the minors before his shoulder miseries set in. To many he has become a forgotten man but the Dodgers can still see the stunning potential in this young man who has battled through so much adversary.

So at age 24, he will enter his seventh professional season. If he can overcome the control problem and get the ball over the plate consistently, he would rank #1 on the prospect chart and get a quick call up to the big club.

If he continues to struggle -- well, he's still comparatively young, still possesses a 97 mph fastball and you must give him even more chances than normal to regain his form. If he doesn't, the potential will still be lurking there somewhere and (hopefully) the club will exhibit extreme patience.

Therefore, perhaps it is a cop out, I'll admit that, but there is no way you can intelligently rank the talented young man accurately, but he's somewhere between #1 and #50 and despite the troubled seasons, is still a top 10 prospect in many minds. My heart tells me he is #1 but my head just can't be convinced -- but it would really like to.

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