[Editor’s note: A total of 12 prospects received votes in our True Blue LA community ranking, which we are revealing in reverse order. Starting pitcher Bobby Miller is ranked No. 2.]
From being the 29th overall pick in the 2020 draft to pitching just 56⅓ innings in his professional career, Bobby Miller still finds himself at the top of the Dodgers pitching prospect hierarchy and 2nd overall in the community rankings. The Dodgers have worked hard in just the year and half that they have had Miller to transform him into the prototype right-handed flamethrower. After dazzling in spots with the big league club this spring, Miller has announced that his arrival to the MLB level could come sooner than later.
We have reached the stage of pitching development where teams are basically creating players in a lab, using pitch shape metrics and spin analysis to find the right combination of player present and future ability to fit a pitching staff’s desired role. In this way, Miller could become the poster child for the development team’s latest efforts to take a player that wasn’t widely seen as a frontline arm and transform them into an ace or near ace pitcher.
Miller already had a premium build and arm strength when Los Angeles took him out of Louisville, but they completely smoothed out his delivery to remove the upper body stiffness he showed in college. Miller now looks smooth and athletic on the mound, and his arm slot’s repeatability has made him a better strike thrower. Also gone is Miller’s sinker/slider approach from his college days, and Miller now attacks hitters with a riding fastball in the upper 90’s that can touch triple digits, and two power shapes of breaking ball that both can miss bats. Miller also has a developing change-up that has come along nicely for him, but he can still too easily overwhelm with his power stuff.
So while Miller might flash big-league-ready stuff, mechanics and body, what the Dodgers cannot develop in him is learned experience through adversity and repetition. Simply put, Miller still lacks pro experience. They have sent him to Double-A Tulsa to start 2022 and he will likely be a midseason call up candidate, but Miller must also prove resiliency and consistency pitching every fifth day, and the first half of the Texas League season should be a good proving ground for his development.
The Dodgers are in no rush to get Miller to the big leagues, but his performance could force his way up by year’s end. They will likely continue to monitor his workload and a development/competitive compromise could be a move to relief in the second half if a need is there for him in the big league bullpen. I would be surprised to see him handle a starter’s workload in the big league level before 2023, and there’s enough talent in the organization that they can exhaust other options before turning to Miller.
Miller’s development has not only been a testament to the strength of the development staff and process in the Los Angeles organization, but also the advantage gap the Dodgers have over their peers in this facet of team building. That the Dodgers can take players like Miller at the back half of the first round and have them pitching like top-five picks in just over a year’s time is truly remarkable and should provide excitement and hope for the crop of pitchers in last year’s draft class that didn’t make this top-10 ranking. Despite the teases Miller has given fans this spring, it’s important to stay patient as they continue his development plan. The goal here should be that when Miller’s ready to go, you don’t need to look back, and come mid-2023, you might see him slotting behind Walker Buehler as another frontline, hard-throwing, strikeout artist.