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On Friday, the Red Sox acquired former top prospect Andrew Miller, in exchange for reliever Dustin Richardson.
Miller was selected by the Tigers with the 6th pick of the first round in the 2006 draft, but he’s never come close to fulfilling his potential.
The 6’7″ lefthander was a college teammate of Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard at North Carolina, where he set school records for strikeouts and was named Baseball America National College Player of the Year, and won the Roger Clemens Award as the nation’s top collegiate pitcher.
Shortly after signing him, the Tigers rushed Miller to the major leagues. After only 5 innings pitched in the minors, he made his debut in the big leagues. As a 21-year-old rookie, he pitched 10.1 innings and posted a 6.10 ERA.
The shuttling from team to team and the struggles in the majors continued for Miller. After pitching with North Carolina, Lakeland in the minors and the Tigers all in 2006, he pitched for three different minor league teams and the Tigers in 2007.
With Detroit, he went 5-5 with a 5.63 ERA in 64 innings. Still a top prospect, he was a big part of the trade for Miguel Cabrera, with the Tigers shipping him and five other players to the Marlins for Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.
Miller pitched for four different teams in the Marlins organization in 2008, five in 2009 and three in 2010, as the Marlins worked with him to change his delivery. His struggles in the majors continued, and in 284.1 big league innings, he’s struggled to a career record of 15-26 with an ERA of 5.84.
With Miller regressing to a horrible 1-5, 8.54 record in 2010, the Marlins had seen enough, and moved him to the Red Sox for lefthanded reliever Dustin Richardson. Richardson went 3-0 with a 2.66 ERA in Pawtucket this year, and pitched 13 innings in Boston, posting a 4.15 ERA. The 26-year-old Richardson struggled with control, walking 14 batters for the Red Sox. Richardson didn’t figure heavily into Boston’s bullpen plans for next year, but the Marlins at least got a young, cheap pitcher in exchange for Miller, who might have won an arbitration award of almost $2 million.
How does Miller fit in with the Red Sox? Since he is out of options and due for arbitration, there’s a chance he might never pitch for Boston.
If the Red Sox offer him arbitration and sign him to a deal, the plan seems to be to let him work with new pitching coach Curt Young, who had success with young lefties in Oakland, and see if Miller can get his pitching mechanics straightened out in spring training.
The best thing for the team would be to try to get him to AAA Pawtucket, where he could refine his delivery and learn to work out of the bullpen. But to do so, he would have to clear waivers, and that could be a problem, because despite his unimpressive numbers, Miller still has loads of potential.
If Miller does make the Red Sox team this season, it will surely be as a lefty reliever, but he’ll have to get his serious control problems ironed out before there’s any chance of that.
Miller walked an appalling 102 batters in 132.2 innings at all levels this past season.
The Red Sox have to be hoping that Miller can follow the path of his old college teammate Bard, who was awful in his first minor league season as a starting pitcher, walking 78 hitters in 75 innings, but who found his command and effectiveness after switching to the bullpen and quickly became an effective relief pitcher in the majors.
Is it a good omen for this low-risk gamble by the Sox that in addition to being a college teammate of Bard and winning the Roger Clemens award, Miller also graduated from Buchholz high school in Gainesville Florida? After going from a top 10 prospect in the game who was traded for Miguel Cabrera to being dumped for Dustin Richardson, Miller would surely welcome any good omens he can find.