The story of Mason Miller’s meteoric rise from third-round pick in the 2021 MLB draft to just 20 minor-league innings coming into this season to now getting the call to pitch in the majors has even more to it than that.
Back in 2018, Miller had just finished his sophomore season at Division III Waynesburg University with a 7.16 ERA. When the gangly, 6-foot-5, 150-pound right-hander was then diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, it could have been the end of his baseball career.
Instead, Miller changed his diet and worked out, putting on 65 pounds. He worked on the craft of pitching, added velocity to go from throwing in the mid-80s to the low-90s and turned around his college career by leading the conference in ERA (1.86), strikeouts (97) and shutouts (4). He was even more dominant to start the 2020 season (24 Ks in 14 IP) before the pandemic happened.
Miller transfered to Gardner-Webb for his final season of college eligibility and led the Big South Conference in strikeouts with 121 as his velocity was up to 96-99 mph.
The A’s popped Miller in the third round, 97th overall, in the draft and he made his pro debut with 6 innings in the Arizona Complex League.
Miller touched triple-digits in 2022 spring training, but a subsequent shoulder strain sidelined him until Aug. 23. After tossing 2 perfect innings back in the ACL, Miller recorded 13 strikeout in 7 innings in High-A before getting 7 Ks in 5 innings in Triple-A.
In need of innings, Oakland sent Miller to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, where he posted a 3.24 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings.
This year, Miller started at Double-A and racked up 8 strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings to earn a quick promotion to Triple-A. Miller shoved, striking out 11 in 5 innings while allowing no hits and no walks (a batter reached on a dropped third strike) on Friday in Las Vegas Ballpark, known as being one of the most hitter-friendly environments in the minors. He averaged an astounding 100.4 mph on his fastball in the game.
Now that he is reportedly getting promoted to the majors to start for the A’s on Wednesday, he will reach Oakland with just 28 2/3 minor-league innings under his belt.
His arsenal is centered around a four-seam fastball that sits 100 with solid carry and a bit of arm-side run. His sweeping, mid-80s slider gives him two premium pitches. Miller has also shown a firm, low-90s changeup, but it is considered a work in progress. He also has an upper-90s cutter that he shelved last year while coming back from his shoulder injury. Miller threw a cutter 12 times on Friday night, maxing out at 98 mph.
With a career strikeout rate of 16.6 K/9 in the minors to go with a walk rate of just 1.9 BB/9, this is one of the most exciting pitching talents to arrive in the majors that I can remember. I can’t help but recall that Spencer Strider arrived in Atlanta in late 2021 with just 94 minor-league innings on his ledger with 14.7 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9. Stephen Strasburg debuted for Washington in 2011 with only 75 2/3 minor-league innings with 11.2 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9.
For fantasy baseball owners who may be looking to FAAB Miller onto their team this week, you have to wonder just how many innings Miller might be able to reach. That was the big question with Strider last year and he wound up reaching 131 2/3 regular-season innings. With the A’s obviously not competing this year, they will likely not let their prize pitching prospect get to such a lofty number of innings, but 100 innings seems like a reasonable expectation if he stays healthy and on the mound for Oakland.
We expect the strikeout rate to well exceed 10 K/9 and with Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum’s pitcher-friendly confines, Miller should help in the ratio stats as well. He should have a hard time posting wins for a truly atrocious A’s team, but even bad teams have to win sometimes.