Bryce Miller was on point from the get-go in his MLB debut on Tuesday, striking out five of the first six batters he faced and taking a perfect game into the sixth inning. Oakland’s Tony Kemp broke up the perfecto with a one-out single and Esteury Ruiz ended the shutout bid with a two-out RBI double, but Miller closed out the inning with a 10th strikeout to finish the dazzling debut.
Seattle’s Miller was matched on the other side by the A’s Mason Miller, who threw seven no-hit innings before the Oakland bullpen allowed two runs for the Mariners to win 2-1.
The Mariners’ 24-year-old threw 81 pitches, 57 for strikes, and didn’t walk a batter. Seven of his strikeouts came on his mid-90s fastball.
Miller made a run at Seattle’s rotation in spring training, posting a 4.50 ERA with a 13-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11 innings, but was sent to Double-A to start the season. He struggled in four starts for Arkansas, going 0-2 with a 6.41 ERA and 1.32 WHIP but did have an 18-3 K-BB in 19.2 innings. With Robbie Ray undergoing season-ending elbow surgery last week, Miller is getting an extended look in the Seattle rotation.
Miller was drafted in the fourth round of the 2021 draft out of Texas A&M, where he had spent two seasons in the bullpen before moving to the rotation for his senior year. There were questions about whether Miller would wind up in the bullpen, but he has made a strong case to stick as a starter since debuting with a 15-2 strikeout-to-walk in 9.1 innings for Low-A Modesto his pro debut. He started 2022 with a 1.69 ERA in one start for Modesto, then posted a 3.24 ERA with a 99-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 78 innings for High-A Everett before finishing the season with a 3.20 ERA and 61-19 in 51 IP for Double-A Arkansas.
So what can we expect from the 6-foot-2, 180-pound right-hander in his rookie season? Steamer has Miller’s projections at 99 innings with a 4.04 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 95 strikeouts. That’s not a bad projection since there’s no guarantee that Miller will be allowed to hold down a rotation spot in Seattle all season, but he showed on Tuesday why we might have reason to be a little more optimistic about that possibility. If he pitches well enough to stay in the rotation all year, he could approach something like what George Kirby did last year – 130 innings. We could see something like a 3.50 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP and 140 strikeouts as a reasonable 80th-percentile outcome.
The worry is that the Mariners may not have the patience to weather a few bad starts and could send Miller back down to instead go with a veteran in the rotation like Chris Flexen.
As for the long-term future, Miller has his 70-grade explosive fastball that could ultimately make him a frontline starter if he can continue to develop his slider, curve and change. If he can settle into the Mariners rotation, he has the upside to become a top-30 fantasy starting pitcher racking up strikeouts in a pitcher-friendly ballpark on an up-and-coming team. See where we have him ranked in our weekly-updated Top 500 prospects.