We continue our countdown of top prospects here at The Good Phight, counting backwards from 20 to our top prospect.
Erik Miller, LHP, 23 years old
Miller’s velocity waxed and waned while he was at Stanford, and he’s been hurt in pro ball (rotator cuff strain in 2021), working just a handful of short starts in July before shutting things down until Fall League. When healthy, Miller was pitching at the peak levels of velocity he showed in college, working in the 93-95 range, but in part due to the 2020 shutdown and in part due to injury, he hasn’t had an extended stretch to prove that he can hold that velocity under a starter’s workload. His secondary stuff is also very promising. His changeup was his best weapon in college but his two breaking balls each have big spin and distinct shape from one another. It’s a starter’s mix with fringe command and an injury history shading Miller toward the bullpen in our estimation. He still has five-and-dive fourth starter ceiling because of the pitch mix, but even that high-end outcome is probably years away since Miller hasn’t been able to build a foundation of starter innings.
Jay: 9, Ethan: 13, Alex: 13
Healthy arms are valuable in any player development program and the Phillies are no different. With their starting rotation pretty solid at the major league level, they have the luxury, assuming health, of having five starters that are all capable major league starters were the season to start right now.
The issue has been: when the injuries do inevitably start to hit, what have the Phillies been able to produce at the minor league level to help reinforce the big league team?
2020 was a funky year, we all know that. Injuries were bound to happen since spring training had been cut short, routines where all out of whack and teams were simply sprinting to the finish line in the hopes of making the expanded playoff. For the Phillies, they were able to lean on three good starters for those sixty games for 33 starts. Out of the remaining 27, they had to go with Jake Arrieta nine times, Vince Velasquez seven and Spencer Howard six. Outside of that trio of stars, names like Blake Parker, Ramon Rosso, David Hale and Adonis Medina were called upon, sometimes in planned bullpen games, for the simple reason that Joe Girardi felt the team had no better options available.
Now, he’s partially right. With no minor league season that year, there wasn’t a team to simply call up an arm from that was stretched out and ready to go. But the flip side was that the team did not have the depth to pull from in the minors in the first place that they could grab an arm to help them with. It’s been an issue for many years and 2020, it truly reared its ugly head. Would it have put them in the playoffs? That’s what hindsight is for.
That’s what makes pitcher like Erik Miller so important to the team. His development is crucial since it would help the team build up necessary depth in case of injury throughout the season. He’s clearly got the stuff. You can see from the video and from the report above that he should be able to reach the majors as a starter for now. How many innings he could last per game would depend on his command taking a full grade step forward, but it’s something he’ll emphasize once the minor league season begins. His being able to give the team starts when needed would go a long way to them not having a revolving door of bullpen games to get through a series, burning out a bullpen in the process. It’s these kinds of moves, the developing of cheap, effective, upper minors depth, that would be crucial to the team making a run at the playoffs. Getting good starts from pitchers like Miller would mean less usage of worse pitchers in big games.