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FanGraphs Scouting: Bird-Dogging Brad Mills

A. J. Hinch
Vice President of Pro Scouting
San Diego Padres

Mr. Hinch:

I am writing you to report in on a possible trade target. As you know, a team never has too much pitching. The strength of the Padres organization is definitely on the mound but the upper ranks of the system is a little bare. As such, I strongly recommend that you considering posing offers for Toronto’s Brad Mills.

Background: Mills, a lefty, was originally drafted out of the University of Arizona during the fourth round of the 2007 draft. He graduated with a civil engineering degree and is known for being a very smart pitcher who understands his strengths and weaknesses. The 2011 season represents his third partial season in triple-A. In each of those three seasons, the southpaw has performed reasonable well in the potent Pacific Coast League and in a very dangerous home ball park in Las Vegas. In parts of two seasons in the Majors, Mills has posted a 5.64 ERA (4.51 FIP) in 22.1 innings (seven appearances, three starts). He’s given up just 20 hits but control, which has been much less of an issue in the minors, has been his nemesis (13 walks). He will be out of options at the beginning of the 2012 season (Options used in ’09, ’10 and ’11).

2011 Season: It’s early in the year still, but Mills has been very effective. He’s allowed one earned run or fewer in five or his six triple-A starts. In one game in poor weather conditions at Colorado Springs (38 degrees F), he was touched up for six runs on nine hits and two walks in 5.0 innings. Removing that start on the year, he has given up three earned runs in 35.0 innings on 22 hits and nine walks. He’s recorded 33 strikeouts. Subtracting the one start, Mills has a 0.77 ERA in his other five starts. His ground-ball rate is disappointing and sits at 37.0 BB%.

Scouting Strengths: Mills has displayed solid control in his pro career. His fastball is nothing to write home about but he has a plus changeup and throws it with the same arm speed as his heater. He spent some time on the disabled list in ’09 (not a chronic concern, bruised ribs… he also missed a few starts in college with a back injury) but Mills has been fairly durable in his career and has shown the ability to pitch 130-150 innings at the minor league level and has a resilient arm. He has solid deception with a bit of a herky-jerky delivery, which can cause him to lose his release point at times. He does a nice job of staying back over the rubber in his delivery.

Scouting Weaknesses: Although he has solid control, Mills does struggle to command the fastball in the strike zone. With a fringe-average fastball for a lefty, he works up in the zone too often, which has hurt him in previous trips to the Majors Leagues; pitching in Petco Park, and in a league less potent than the American League East could certainly help him. Mills has a three-pitch repertoire but his breaking ball – a curve – is more of a big league show-me pitch. I would rate his fastball a 45.

Projection: With a three-pitch repertoire – a fastball that sits around 86 mph (He can touch 90-91), an average curveball at 72 mph, and a changeup at 74 mph – Mills could settle in as a No. 4 or 5 starter. That’s nothing to get too excited about but he could provide respectable value during his control years. His changeup gives him a legitimate weapon against right-handers but he could also settle in at the MLB level as a LOOGY (lefties hitting .179 against him in 2011). He currently throws with a high three-quarter arm slot and lower that arm a bit to low-three quarter might help with deception and getting more ground balls. He might be better off his more of a slurve or cutter if the lower arm slot takes effectiveness away from his curveball.