Name: Drew Miller
DOB: February 24, 1986
Selected in the 37th-round in 2005 out of Seminole State Community College, Miller was part of the now deceased draft-and-follow process, signing just prior to the 2006 draft.
He began his career in the Arizona Rookie League in '06, going 3-0 with a 3.47 ERA across seven appearances before quickly moving up to short-season Eugene. In nine outings, the right-hander went 2-1 with a 3.62 ERA. He allowed 39 hits and walked 20 across 37.1 innings while striking out 23.
The following season, Miller was elevated to full-season ball. With Fort Wayne, the Oklahoma native made 16 starts, going 4-6 with a 4.69 ERA. In 80.2 innings, he allowed 74 hits, walked 24 and struck out 87. His year was cut short by shoulder soreness and an oblique injury.
The right-hander went to the California League this past season, going 10-7 with a 6.10 ERA across 27 games, including 26 starts.
Miller allowed 11.6 hits per nine innings pitched, giving up 172 in 134.1 innings, Combined with the 46 walks, Miller had a 1.62 WHIP – third worst in the California League.
Lefties and righties both hit .313 off him, as he surrendered more hits than innings pitched in 18 of his outings. He ended up with a 4.76 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) – the third worst mark in the circuit. The .354 BABIP
(Batting Average on Balls In Play) ranked fifth from the bottom. His 61.7 left on base percentage was the eighth worst.
The 22-year-old also allowed 1.27 homers per nine innings – tied for the third worst mark in the circuit – after allowing 19 homers, which included one in seven straight games.
In retrospect, it was a forgettable year.
"He's got the talent," Lake Elsinore manager Carlos Lezcano said. "He's another guy that needs to learn how to pitch inside, command the fastball in and up and down in the zone and throw his breaking pitch, his curveball for strikes. Once he wasn't getting the curveball for strikes, they were looking for higher stuff in kind of the same area and that's why he struggled. He's got an outstanding arm, and he just needs to work on that and get his confidence level a little higher."
Miller throws a two- and four-seam fastball. The two-seamer hits 91-92 mph and can reach 94 with sideways movement. The four-seam sits in the 94-95 mph range and has hit 96 mph. Miller's four-seam fastball has a natural rise to it when he throws it up in the zone. The two-seamer can appear flat at times and gets hammered when thrown over the plate.
"Too much middle away to everybody," former Lake Elsinore pitching coach Wally Whitehurst said. "I don't think he pitched in with any kind of effectiveness. For the first half of the year, he wasn't bad. There was some improvement, especially with his two-seam fastball; he had that working for him.
"His curveball, he had some success with when he was throwing it in the strike zone. I think he lost the feel of his curveball and changeup there in the second half. When you become a one-pitch pitcher, you're not going to last very long. I think a lot of that has to do with the confidence part of it, of him just getting back, getting his curveball over the plate and keeping it in the strike zone and that's going to help him tremendously."
His changeup has the appearance of a split-fingered fastball because of its significant bottoming out. Its effectiveness, however, was limited because he was pitching behind in so many counts. With the count not in his favor, the changeup could not be used as an out-pitch that gets hitters rolling over or swinging and missing. Hitters simply don't swing at the pitch.
"I think he's one of the kids that have concentrated so much on the changeup because he never really had one," Padres roving pitching coordinator Mike Couchee said. "It was always 88 miles an hour. Last year, he learned when to throw it, but it was always too hard and it kind of fed into the bat speed for the hitters. He gave up a lot of homers off it.
"To me, this year, I think he spent so much concentration on that that working both sides of the plate kind of, I don't want to say, fell to the side, but it was secondary to what the main goal was for him this year, which was to develop a changeup and take a little something off it and he did. It's become a very good pitch for him."
His curveball has shown a tendency to come out a little high at his release point, making it hang up in the zone. It has tight rotation and drops like a two-plane curveball but is not consistently down in the zone. Hitters sitting back on the pitch get a chance to pounce on it and hit it out of the park. When he gets extension and delivers it out in front of his body, it is a power curve that has quick dropping action.
Miller picks at the corners a tad too much because of his concerns of hitting too much of the plate the year before. Unfortunately, he has not mastered fastball command enough to pick and falls behind as a result.
With the focus on his delivery and throwing strikes, Miller largely ignored the runners on base. He does not offer different looks and his glances over to first do little to stop the running game. He and his catchers were success in catching 5-of-34 base runners attempting to steal.
"We've just got to do a better job of putting ourselves up to home plate with runners on first base," Whitehurst said. "We did a little bit of that, but for guys that haven't ever done that, it takes away from their command, especially at an early age, just learning how to quicken their stride and get their hands going a little bit. It was an ongoing battle for a lot of us this summer. We've just got to do a little bit better job of that coming into spring training with a little more emphasis on controlling the running game. You don't always have to be so quick to home plate; you just vary your times and vary your looks over to the runners on base and things like that."
"It's starting to get to the point with Drew its more about performance than potential, and he hasn't done it yet," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "We all know what he brings to the table, he throws 90 to 94, has a good breaking ball – but you are either going to get them out or you are not.
"I still think he has one of the highest ceilings of any pitcher that we have in the system, but it's the second year in a row the same pattern – he doesn't like to pitch inside, which allows guys to hang over the plate, and that is really going to hurt him at higher levels. Many times his best stuff is over the middle of the plate. The bottom line is performance needs to count, and, right now, he has a ways to go to be ready to go to San Antonio, especially when you consider who else we have in our system."
Conclusion: There is a sense of some urgency put on the right-hander. He has not performed as expected over the last two years, despite his tremendous stuff. At some point, production is more important than potential. Miller might be hitting that point soon.
Success begins with fastball command for Miller. Getting out in front of the hitter will open up the arsenal choices – a fastball at eye level of a changeup near the dirt. If he can consistently throw strikes, Miller has the potential to be near the top of a rotation. One does, however, wonder where his mental mindset is after two tough years.
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