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2017 IBI Preview Capsule: Hoby Milner

The Indians selected Hoby Milner during this year's Rule 5 Draft out of the Phillies organization. Can he remain on the big league roster for the whole season and fill the role of the much-needed matchup left-hander in their bullpen?

The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.

Hoby Milner, LHP

Throws: Left -- Bats: Left -- Entering his age-26 season -- Contract: Sixth minor league season (Must remain on 25-man roster all season to stay with Indians organization)

2016 In Review: Milner had his best season since moving to the bullpen full time. In 49 appearances, the left-hander posted a 2.49 ERA while walking 15 and striking out 76 in 65 innings. The 26-year-old converted to being a reliever in 2015 after moving up to Double-A Reading where he went 2-1 with a 3.17 ERA in 27 outings. The Indians selected the former seventh round pick during the major league/Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 Draft. In order to remain with the organization, however, they must keep him on the major league roster for the full season, otherwise they'll have to offer him back to the Phillies. So with the Tribe's need for another left-handed reliever in their bullpen, barring the acquisition of a more viable major league option, Milner will likely get every chance to prove himself at the big league level.

Versus Right-handers: 2016 was not only Milner's best season to date, but also the year where he had the most balanced platoon splits. Against right-handers, the southpaw compiled a .234 opposing average, which was only four points higher than his mark against lefties. Right-handed hitters did show more power against him, however, as they clubbed all five of the home runs Milner gave up last year. His strikeout-to-walk rate was better against them, though, at 5.75 as neither left nor right-handed hitters had much luck getting on base against the Texas native with a .283 and .279 OBP, respectively.

Versus Left-handers: Throughout his career both as a starter and reliever, Milner has always had more success against left-handed hitters with opposing averages ranging from .186 to just .238 over the five years of his minor league career thus far. Even last season where his splits were more balanced, his slash line against southpaws was lower at .230/.279/.280. Even in the power department, lefties only had five extra-base hits against Milner in 2016, none of which left the yard. With his established dominance of left-handers, at the very least, Milner could be an effective matchup lefty. The question is can he settle into a rhythm fast enough at the major league level to hold onto a roster spot all season?

Pitch Mix: Scouting reports have Milner throwing a fastball that can top out in the low 90s, a decent changeup and a slow, arching curveball that he's capable of flipping over for strikes. Indians assistant general manager Carter Hawkins cites the lowering of his arm slot as a big reason for his improved effectiveness last year as the organization feels he can a situational pitcher. This was evidenced by not only his strikeout rate being the highest of his career at 10.5 per nine innings, but also his walk rate being the lowest at 2.1 per nine frames between Reading and Lehigh Valley. If those numbers can be replicated at the major league level, Milner has a chance to be more than just a matchup lefty.

Fantasy Impact: Only Steamer has a major league projection for Milner for the upcoming season as they have him making only one appearance and pitching just an inning without surrendering any runs. Obviously they're not accounting for the fact that he has stay on the big league roster all season. Then again, he only has 11 games of Triple-A ball under his belt and 4.50 ERA to show for it. As mentioned before, however, Milner will get as long a look as necessary with the Indians to see if he's worth keeping around, so unless he washes out in spring training, the chances of him making only one big league appearance are slim.

Summary: Milner's impressive numbers last year certainly can account for a lot of the intrigue that led to the Tribe taking him in the Rule 5 Draft, but even as a starter he's always had a decent walk rate, rarely given up home runs and kept the runners that have gotten on base against him from scoring the vast majority of the time. Considering that and his ability to keep left-handed hitters in check throughout his career, the southpaw has a pretty good chance of not only fulfilling his minimum required stay with the Tribe big league squad, but potentially become one of the more valuable members of the bullpen.

Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.


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