The Cubs really do have impactful pitching prospects percolating up toward the big leagues right now. I swear. It has finally happened.
For the first several years of the current administration, the Cubs focused on the types of pitching prospects who were very likely not to completely flame out, but who were also likely not to explode into the kind of arms that would be truly impactful at the big league level. They’d taken over a farm system devoid of talent, and, knowing that they were drafting bats early, they opted to take safer pitchers later on. I can understand it.
But the Cubs changed things up a few years ago, having seen that this kind of “pitchability” approach produced a ton of successful High-A/AA-level pitchers who simply didn’t have the kind of elite stuff necessary to break out as impact types in the upper levels and, ultimately, in the big leagues. So they started taking bigger swings.
For example, in 2016, with no picks in the first two rounds, the Cubs went for previously-injured, high-upside starter Thomas Hatch from Oklahoma State in the third round. In the fourth round, they took a huge righty from California Baptist University, the highest ever pick from that Division II school. He was, in fact, the first D-II player taken in that entire draft.
So far, that big swing is paying off, as Miller, 23, really started putting it together at High-A last year, and is presently dominating AA. For example, last night, he was nearly perfect:
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) May 2, 2019
SmokiesCenter 5/1 vs Jackson: Near perfection from Tyson Miller and some late heroics make for a fun night at Smokies Stadium. pic.twitter.com/KYVTDVFLRA
— Tennessee Smokies (@smokiesbaseball) May 2, 2019
That four-seamer has high spin and late-cut with decent velocity, the two-seamer gets great arm-side run and dives late, and the breaking pitch (is that a hard curve or a slow slider?) can be a get-me-over, or he can spike it. That’s a starter’s kit right there, man.
Whenever a guy can get so much natural movement on his fastballs, I get really intrigued:
An extreme example of the movement Tyson Miller is getting with his 4-seam cut fastball (the same type of pitch you see with C.J. Edwards). This is a pitch that can be weaponized in short relief or be an important piece of the starting pitching puzzle. pic.twitter.com/TFXr2Z9u2Z
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) August 29, 2018
At the outset of the season, Miller ranked as the Cubs’ 17th best prospect to Bryan, though he says that’d probably be bumping up closer to 10/11 at this point.
On the young season, Miller has made five starts, all of them good, and he’s posted a 1.07 ERA over 25.1 innings with good peripherals: 26.3% K rate, 7.4% BB rate, no homers allowed, and a 12.9% line drive rate.
Fun fact harkening back to that 2016 draft? The top swinging strike rate in the Cubs’ farm system right now? It’s Thomas Hatch, at 15.3%. Number two? It’s Miller, of course. Hatch’s rotation-mate at Tennessee, and the guy the Cubs took right after him in that draft.
Keep Miller in mind …