In just a couple of weeks, the Cubs are going to have to adjust their 40-man roster in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft. So far this fall, Cubs Insider has looked at those decisions in detail by examining several possible scenarios (see the links at the end of this article). While Miguel Amaya appears to be a lock, who else will join him is pretty much in flux. Today’s candidate is none other than pitcher Tyson Miller.
The Cubs took the athletic Miller in the fourth round of the 2016 draft out of Cal Baptist and he’s taken a couple years to develop. He began to take off at Myrtle Beach in 2018 after adding some muscle, which helped his stuff tick up a bit. Combined with the control he already had, Miller’s stock rose exponentially that summer as he posted a 3.57 ERA while striking out 126 in 127 IP.
In 2019, Miller picked right up where he left off with a dominant first half at Double-A Tennessee that saw him put up a 2.51 ERA. That kind of performance had not been seen since Kyle Hendricks’ 1.85 ERA in the first half of 2014. Miller struck out 70 and allowed just a .229 batting average against in 75.1 innings, earning a promotion to Triple-A Iowa as a result
It took a while for him to adjust to the differences at Iowa in the second half, where a different ball and more hitter-friendly environs were not conducive to a low ERA. The Pacific Coast League is not an easy place for a fly ball pitcher to ply his trade, and a switch to the same juiced balls resulted in a 60% increase in homers across the league. As reliever Dakota Mekkes told CI’s Evan Altman, routine flies were leaving the yard and the adjustment was difficult for many pitchers coming up from Double-A
Things got better for Miller as the season went on, which was to be expected after putting up an 11+ ERA in July. That dropped to 5.73 in August and he had a really good start in the playoffs, giving up just one run over six innings before leaving in the 7th after giving up two more. They were times in the latter half of August that he looked like the spring version of Tyson Miller, whiffing 21 men in his last 22.2 innings.
Miller’s greatest strengths are that he has really good command of his pitches and he is still filling out as a baseball player. He’s 24 years old and he has shown a tendency to stay healthy while withstanding the rigors of a significant innings load. He threw 136.2 innings without any issues this past season and his body is built to throw 180-200 with no problem.
His inclusion on the 40-man is up in the air, but the Cubs are probably going to take a gamble and leave him off. That will make him Rule 5-eligible, and some other team may snatch him up based upon his track record at Myrtle Beach and the latter part of his season at Tennessee. MLB switching back to un-juiced balls might aid that decision.
Miller‘s case is going to be a key test for the Cubs’ new MiLB infrastructure, including execs Matt Dorey and Bobby Basham. If they don’t think Miller fits into their future plans, which are heavily focused on pitching development, they won’t see fit to recommend him for roster protection. But the Cubs will add one or two more pitchers and Miller should be one of them, thereby leaving just a small handful of openings before the non-tender deadline in December. There are going to be some tough calls come November 20.