The Red Sox may have found a diamond in the rough in their acquisition of power pitcher Andrew Miller from the Marlins.
Miller was Detroit's first-round draft pick in the 2006 amateur draft, going to the Tigers with the sixth overall selection. He was so highly touted that he was chosen one pick ahead of Dodgers' rising star Clayton Kershaw and four picks ahead of the Giants' Tim Lincecum, a two-time Cy Young Award winner.
Miller, a 6-foot-7 lefty, was the National Collegiate Player of the Year at the University of North Carolina that year. However, he never found that kind of success at the professional level.
With almost no development time in the minors, Miller made his major league debut the very year he was drafted. Miller wasn't a late-season call up either; he was promoted to the big leagues just three weeks after inking a four-year, $5.4 million deal.
The projections for Miller were so good that the Marlins insisted that he be included as part of any package that Detroit put together for Miguel Cabrera in the winter of 2007.
But Miller became a major disappointment in Florida, going 10-20 with a 5.89 ERA.
The Marlins identified Miller's problem as a failure to repeat his delivery due to a tendency to throw across his body.
However, Daniel Bard, Miller's college teammate at UNC, said that the Marlins seem to have tinkered with Miller's delivery too much and that it had a negative effect on him.
"I think they just changed a lot of things and it kind of took away from the pitcher he was when he was drafted," said Bard. "He looks quite a bit different than his 2006, college version. It seems like [his delivery] had changed gradually ever since then."
Despite those issues, Bard thinks that Miller will turn out to be a good acquisition for the Red Sox.
"I think it will be good, change of scenery, good organization. I think it will be a positive thing for him," said Bard. "All the tools are still there. Nothing has changed."
The Red Sox starting rotation appears to be set. Even if the Sox trade Daisuke Matsuzaka, it is highly unlikely that Miller would be the answer. The would certainly look for a starter with much greater Major League success than Miller.
What is more likely is that Miller will be given a chance to earn a spot in the bullpen out of spring training. Given that the 25-year-old is out of options, both he and the Red Sox have a lot riding on this experiment. Miler would first have to clear options to be assigned to Triple A.
However, Miller has a four-pitch repertoire, including a four-seam fastball that has touched 99 mph, plus a 12-to-6 curve, a slider and a change-up. He's even said to be working on a cutter.
That assortment of pitches will make him an interesting, if not irresistible, project for new pitching coach Curt Young. As a reliever, all those pitches could make him tough on hitters — if his mechanics are refined and his delivery is consistent.
More than anything else, Miller may just need a confidence booster and the knowledge that he has the support of his pitching coach and the organization.
Miller was such a highly regarded prospect when the Tigers drafted him that the consensus was they had a future ace on their hands. It would hardly be surprising if Miller feels that he let a lot of people down, not the least of which is himself.
Being projected as a future superstar is quite a burden for any young player. The Red Sox will be happy if Miller simply becomes a successful, consistent power lefty out of the pen next season.