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Andrew Miller’s Iffy Future

Andrew Miller has two articles linked on his page. One directs to a RotoGraphs piece written by the Talented Mr. Bendix and clicking the other will lead to a detailed look at the tallest rotations. This is not what most people had presumably predicted would headline on Miller’s page back when the Tigers selected him sixth overall in 2006. The first place Tigers pulled the draft equivalent of a heist by popping the North Carolina ace over signability concerns. Miller provided plenty of reasons to be excited. For one, being a tall lefty with a live fastball and plus breaking pitch naturally gains you status amongst the baseball folk. He inhaled strikeouts and exhaled weakly hit grounders.

18 months later, the Tigers traded Miller to the Florida Marlins to acquire Miguel Cabrera. Since then, Miller settled on the brink of irrelevancy. The most notable thing about his off-season is being placed in the Arizona Fall League to work on his altered delivery (as detailed by Keith Law) and whether he’ll make the Marlins’ rotation out of spring. Since joining the Marlins he’s struck out a little over seven per nine while walking nearly five. He’s a groundballer, which allows for some leniency on the walks, but still, that’s not a great ratio. It’s also worth noting that a high BABIP has lead to a below average strand rate.

Over the last two seasons he’s appeared in 49 games for the Marlins while totaling a little shy of 190 innings. If that doesn’t seem like a lot of time that’s because it’s not. The biggest knocks on him right now are inconsistent control and health; a combination that usually leads to frustration and a transition to the bullpen. Miller actually finished last season in the pen while the Marlins rolled with a six-man rotation. Pitchers with high strikeout and walk rates are generally more successful after transitioning to relief, so writing Miller off based on his previous relief work is laughable with the current sample size.

Normally options wouldn’t come into play with 2006 draftees. Even if the player reached the Majors in 2008, they would still have at least one option remaining. Because of a clause in Miller’s contract which dictated he be promoted to the Majors at the end of his first professional season, he burned one of those options almost immediately. The Tigers then optioned Miller to the minors to begin 2007. That’s two seasons, two options used. The Marlins did not option Miller in 2008, but did send him to the minors in July 2009, which normally would mean Miller could not be sent to the minors without passing through waivers. However, since he does not have five professional seasons yet, the Marlins will hold a fourth option year.

That gives Florida the ability to send Miller down to New Orleans where he can continue to work on his new delivery and wait on the inevitable Anibal Sanchez injury. Such a predicament all but guarantees Miller will remain a starter. However, if the injury and inconsistency bugs continue to harvest on his ability, it could be inevitable that Miller winds up in the bullpen.