Name: Ludovicus Van Mil
DOB: September 15, 1984
Loek Van Mil has been playing the game of baseball since he was eight years old, although one look at him and you would swear that he is a member of the National Basketball Association. Standing 7'1'' tall, the young right-hander is the tallest player in professional baseball, and he has definitely garnered enough attention this past year just because of that. However, he is also developing into quite a pitcher, and if he can continue to progress, then he will be the tallest player to ever play in the Major Leagues.
The Twins began scouting Van Mil three years ago, and he had also been drawing some interest from the Seattle Mariners. Van Mil had his heart set on being a Twins, and even told the Star-Tribune that it did not matter how much money Seattle offered. Now that he is with the Twins, Van Mil has been called a "project", but he is definitely a prospect with tremendous upside.
A Darren Daulton fan growing up, Van Mil was switched to pitcher due to his size, and the rest is history.
During the 2006 season, Van Mil had a successful inaugural year of professional baseball, as he was worked as both a reliever and a starter. The Netherlands-native appeared in ten games for the Gulf Coast League Twins, making eight starts, and had a respectable 3.30 earned run average. He pitched far better than anyone could have expected.
This past year, Van Mil was a member of the Dutch National Team in the World Baseball Cup, and pitched exceptionally well. He posted a 0.71 earned run average in his time with the team, notching two saves. It would set the stage for him to be promoted to Elizabethton.
For the E-Town Twins, Van Mil helped the team to the Appalachian League Championship, as he pitched much better in his second season with the Twins. Van Mil posted a 2.63 earned run average, notching a 2-2 record. Van Mil struck out nearly a batter per inning, and really showed growth from year one.
Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup
Fastball: When the Twins first got a look at Van Mil, the lanky right-hander's fastball sat in the high-80s. Since then, Van Mil has made some huge strides, using his frame to his advantage. After hitting the low-90s last season, Van Mil reached the mid-90s this past season, and is starting to show much better accuracy with his fastball. If he continues to locate the fastball well, he should be a big-time player in the Midwest League in 2008.
Other Pitches: Van Mil has two other pitches that he is beginning to be able to throw for strikes. The right-hander's slider is developing quite nicely, and he has also been honing his skills with his changeup. He has been able to spot his pitches much better as of late, though a sore elbow ended his 2007 season. The slider is definitely his number two pitch, and if he can show some consistency with his changeup, then he could be in Fort Myers by the end of the season.
Pitching: The main thing for Van Mil has been consistency. Since he came to the Twins, they have been hoping that he could use his big frame to dominate the opposition, which he is starting to do. His earned run average has lowered from year one, and he is striking people out at a much better pace. His consistency is getting better, and so has his confidence, as he now wants to be seen as a great pitcher, not just a tall pitcher. Once his delivery gets more fluid, he should be a top-10 pitching prospect in the Twins organization.
Projection. Van Mil was used exclusively out of the bullpen in 2007, after spending time between the rotation and bullpen in 2006. He looks to project as a relief pitcher, though if he continues to develop then there is no reason why he cannot be a starter down the line. I think he will be used in both areas during the 2008 season, as he gets his first taste of full-season baseball. He showed incredible poise from the bullpen in 2007, and with his unique frame, he could be something unusual coming from the pen in the future. However, it would be pretty special to see someone who is taller than Randy Johnson taking the hill every fifth day.
ETA 2010. The Twins have been using kid gloves with Van Mil since he came into the organization, and I believe that he will be babied until he shows more consistency. Van Mil will likely be with Beloit next season, and the Twins will most likely keep him there until he can take on a full season of games, whether it is from the bullpen or the rotation. However, if he can make it to Fort Myers by the end of the season, he could be with New Britain by 2009. Once the new stadium opens, Van Mil would be a good draw, especially if he is more talent than hype. Van Mil's development has been fun to watch, and hopefully he continues to progress.