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2017 IBI Top 75 Prospects: #61 Hoby Milner

The 2017 prospect countdown continues with an intriguing left-handed pen arm the Indians picked up in the Rule 5 Draft this past December who will be given a long look this spring as an option to round out the opening day bullpen...

61. Hoby Milner – Left-handed Pitcher

Born: 01/13/1991 – Height: 6’2” – Weight: 165 – Bats: Left – Throws: Left

Facts & Info: Milner was selected by the Phillies in the 7th round of the 2012 Draft out of the University of Texas, and signed for $140,700. The Indians acquired him in December in the 2016 Rule 5 Draft. In his last college season in 2012 he was named second team All-Big 12 Conference after going 7-4 with three saves and a 2.64 ERA in 34 games. He is the son of former Major League catcher Brian Milner.

Stuff: Milner doesn’t have big time stuff and is more of a pitchability lefty with very good command of his entire arsenal. His average fastball sits at 87-90 MPH and tops out at 91 MPH, but plays up because of the command and the angle he creates with it. He shows good two-seam action with it to the bottom of the zone, and is fearless pitching with it around the zone and does a good job of working it to both sides of the plate. The changeup is another average offering that has some good late fading action and he does a good job of making it look like his fastball out of his hand which helps create some deception. He also mixes in a fringe average loopy curveball that has 11-5 shape and shows good depth. While neither secondary offering is a plus offering or generates much swing and miss, he has a lot of confidence in both offerings and is able to throw any of his three pitches in any count which helps his stuff play up a little bit.

Delivery & Intangibles: Milner is your typical “crafty” lefty starter who was re-invented in the bullpen with a unique arm slot to play up his pitchability, stuff and the good angle he creates from the left side. He is thinly built and lacks much physicality, but is a good athlete who repeats his delivery well, has good direction to the plate and fields his position well. He is a gamer who shows a lot of toughness on the mound and battles when he is in a tight spot. He was moved to the bullpen in 2015 and showed immediate improvement in all of his numbers upon a move there. As a starter, he had a 6.3 K/9 rate from 2012-2014, and while a move to the pen in 2015 didn’t see much change as he only had a 5.8 K/9, in 2016 he racked up a 10.5 K/9 in 49 combined games between Double-A and Triple-A. The spike in strikeouts wasn’t the result of a significant increase to his stuff; it was an adjustment to his delivery that he and the Phillies made at the end of the 2015 season that took hold where he became a sidearmer. It took a little time to perfect and he went to winter ball in the 2015-2016 offseason in Puerto Rico to work on it some more, and then things clicked last season.

Focus: At 26-years old Milner pretty much is what he is at this point, which is why he had to reinvent himself in 2015 to add a gimmick to his game that helped play up his stuff. There is not much room for growth, so the focus is all about refining his new sidearm slot and tweaking it as necessary in order for him to create the proper angle all while retaining his command and the shape of his pitches. With a lack of swing and miss stuff he has to be elite with his command and cannot afford many mistakes out over the plate and up in the zone. When he does miss up his fastball is very flat and hittable, so he needs to consistently work down in the zone in order to be effective. He also has a tendency to wrap his curveball which leads to some inconsistency with it.

Future: The Indians have long been in search of left-handed relief arms and have had to go outside the organization to find suitable options. They have attacked that need in every way possible since last July, be it with a big blockbuster trade for Andrew Miller, a nice free agent pickup of Boone Logan, a waiver claim of Tim Cooney, or a Rule 5 selection of Milner.  He brings a lot of experience with 144 games pitched in the minors with 92 of them at Double-A and he did make 11 appearances at Triple-A last year.  Because of that experience to go along with his advanced pitchability, ability to command the fastball and unique arm slot, he will be given every opportunity to stick with the Indians this spring as a potential loogy to specialize against left-handed hitters. With Miller and Logan locked in as the top two left-handed arms in Cleveland, Milner has a tough road ahead of him to make the Indians opening day roster, which he has to make in order to stick in the organization since he is a Rule 5 pick and would have to be put on waivers and then offered back to the Phillies before the Indians could send him to the minors. But if he has a great spring the Indians may opt to carry him as a third lefty and their seventh arm in the pen to start the season, or he could fill in if one of Miller or Logan are injured this spring – so there is a good chance he could still stick in the organization as long as he has a strong showing in spring training. If he sticks then he could end up a solid left-handed middle reliever who they could control for a long time and at a low cost – which is important when you consider the cost of relief pitching in the free agent and trade market.

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