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Here’s what scouts think of Owen Miller

Cleveland’s newest infielder has surpassed expectations at every level

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MLB: Cleveland Indians at Los Angeles Angels Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a weird time to track down scouting reports, because — if you hadn’t noticed — a global pandemic kind up-ended everything last year. The minor leagues were virtually non-existent, and top prospects were working behind closed doors with their teams. As a result, the outside world didn’t get a good look at prospects until the Arizona Rookie League and were stuck trusting the word of people who happened to see them.

We finally got a glimpse of Owen Miller and friends in spring training, and now with a month of Triple-A come and gone, one thing is clear: the dude can rake. With the Triple-A Columbus Clippers he slashed .455/.508/.691 with five doubles and a triple to go along with two home runs. He probably won’t bat nearly .500 in the majors, but you don’t get that hot for that long without some kind of skill existing.

Miller was the Padres’ third-round pick in 2018 who Baseball America scouted as having a “below-average arm” with good hands, range, and speed. It didn’t take long for that arm assessment to change, though — at least for some scouts. By the time he got into the Padres system and got some professional games under his belt, FanGraphs gave his throwing tool a 55, or above-average. Though MLB Pipeline still to this day lists his arm as a 45, or below-average.

After flashing a slugging percentage north of .495 in his debut Single-A season, he surprised everyone with his power — something he wasn’t supposed to have a lot out of college. FanGraphs described his swing as “minimalistic,” which allows him to make good contact. Prior to his demolition of Triple-A pitching, FanGraphs saw his hit tool topping out at below-average, but contributing as an intriguing fielder who could make it work:

It’s not an exciting, athletic style of hitting but on an inoffensive, fundamentally sound defensive shortstop, it’s a pretty interesting skillset. Barring a significant swing change, Miller’s offensive output will likely cap his ceiling near the 45 FV range, but for a third round pick who moves quickly, that’s a great outcome.

That’s pretty good praise for a kid in his second year who skipped a level (he went straight from Single-A to Double-A in 2019). Considering his spike in contact between 2018 to 2020, I’d say he outperformed that as well.

MLB Pipeline’s assessment of Miller also supports the idea that Miller will show a lot of power, with the potential to get the ball over infielders’ heads, even if he doesn’t clear the outfield walls 40 times a season. From their pre-season report, where Miller is listed as Cleveland’s No. 16 prospect:

Miller’s forte is making consistent line-drive contact to all fields with a compact right-handed stroke and control of the strike zone. It’s a hit-over-power approach, though his strength gives him some pop to his pull side and could result in 12-15 homers on an annual basis. He’s an average runner and a little quicker underway but not a threat to steal.

Over at the Athletic, Keith Law had Miller ranked as Cleveland’s No. 17 prospect. He didn’t have much to say about him other than he has the potential to be a regular second baseman — maybe more if he can find his power stroke.

Prospects Live had Miller No. 25 in the Cleveland system entering 2021, noting that his bat may need some polish, especially when it comes to barrelling up pitches he should be hitting hard. They also note that he may need a swing path adjustment as he was previously “chopping down” on the ball and limiting his power. Their overall assessment saw him as a below-average bench or utility player.

Miller has a fairly average light-hitting middle infield profile. He’s athletic and fields his position well. Looks like he could probably play anywhere in the diamond in a pinch due to his instincts, but average tools suit him best for 2nd. The bat doesn’t have much pop and he struggles to square up the ball. When he does, he often drives it into the ground with his choppy swing plane. Ultimately his profile is best suited to a utility role on a second division team or bench bat.

With all the positivity being thrown around, I think it’s worth keeping this kind of scouting report in mind. This is a very realistic outcome for Miller — and that is perfectly fine! Miller seemed like little more than a throw-in with the Mike Clevinger trade, and if all he ends up being is a solid utility player that Cleveland controls for the next six years, there could be way worse outcomes.