To cap off the end of the 2009 season, I’m going to be counting down my list of the top 50 prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ system. I’ll be counting down one prospect per day, with an extensive recap on each player, until I reach number one. Check out the previous installments:
14. Quinton Miller, RHP
2009 Season: Miller made his professional debut in late June this season with the State College Spikes, making two appearances before getting promoted to West Virginia in low-A for the rest of the season. In his two appearances with State College, Miller pitched seven innings, allowing three runs on ten hits, with four strikeouts and three walks.
Miller made 12 starts with West Virginia, with a 4.47 ERA, a 1.33 WHIP, a 6.4 K/9, and a 1.6 K/BB ratio in 64.1 innings pitched. He got off to a poor start in the month of July, with a 5.59 ERA in 29 innings pitched, with his two worst starts being a four inning, four run outing in his debut, and a four inning, seven run outing a few weeks later.
One of Miller’s best starts came on July 30th, when he pitched six shutout innings, allowing six hits, two walks, and striking out three. From this start to the end of the 2009 season, Miller posted a 2.70 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP, a 6.2 K/9, a 1.6 K/BB, and an 0.8 HR/9 ratio in 33.1 innings pitched.
Miller’s walk rate was at 4.0 over the course of the season, and at 3.8 during his stretch over the last month of the season. His K/BB ratio is a little low, but it’s certainly not a cause for concern at this point, especially considering Miller was essentially making his professional debut in low-A ball at the age of 19.
The bulk of Miller’s problems came against left handed hitters. Miller had a 6.2 K/9 ratio and a 6.2 BB/9 ratio against left handers, with a .286 BAA. Against right handers, Miller had a 6.0 K/9 and a 2.8 BB/9, with a .253 BAA.
Information: Miller fell to the Pirates in the 20th round of the 2008 draft, thanks to signability issues from his commitment to UNC. Baseball America rated Miller the 158th best prospect in the 2008 draft, making him a top five round talent. Miller was coming off a year in which he put up a 1.90 ERA in 43 innings pitched, with a 72:8 K/BB ratio. The Pirates were able to sign him away from North Carolina with a $900 K signing bonus.
Miller is 6′ 1″ and 185 pounds with a fastball that has been clocked as high as 95 MPH. Last year his fastball was consistently in the high 80s for his final year of high school, but Miller should see his velocity in the mid-90s on a consistent basis as his body develops. Miller’s fastball is his best pitch, possibly a reason why he skipped over State College, where the Pirates tend to stress fastball command and control.
Miller also throws a slider and a changeup. Neither pitch is nearly as good as the fastball, although his slider projects to be a plus pitch one day. His changeup is average, and further development could help him with his issues against left handed hitting. Miller has a good feel for pitching, although he lacks consistency with his arm slot, and with his velocity.
For the most part, Miller is a project, with the ability to become a power arm for the Pirates. That’s part of the reason I’m not too worried about his results for the first year or two that he’s in the system. Another reason is his alternate timeline. Let’s say Miller doesn’t sign, and attends UNC. 2009 would have been his freshman year. He wouldn’t have started showing his potential until the 2011 season, as a junior. By that point he would be draft eligible again, and probably a top three round talent.
Since Miller would have been a top three round talent, and likely a first round talent, we can assume that he would have held out until August, making it impossible for him to make his debut in the 2011 season. Then he would have likely made his professional debut in 2012 in high-A, one level above where he was in 2009 as a 19 year old, but three years later.
Miller got a head start, and I’m not going to start grading his stats until his would-have-been junior year rolls around in 2011. By then he could very well be in AA, with the majors not too far away.
2010 Expectations: I wouldn’t be surprised if Miller starts off the 2010 season back with West Virginia, just to get more work in. The last thing the Pirates want to do is rush Miller along, and spending just 56.1 innings in West Virginia isn’t exactly taking things at a slow pace. I think Miller could end up in high-A by the end of the season.
Optimistic Projection: It’s too early to tell with Miller, but he has the upside to be a top of the rotation starter.
Conservative Projection: A conservative look would put Miller in the back of the rotation.
Check back tomorrow for prospect number 13…