Erik Miller was a potential top-five round MLB draft pick out of the Missouri high school ranks in 2016. The left-handed pitcher went undrafted, though, as he informed major league teams he would be honoring his commitment to Stanford.
Now three years later, Miller is once again a top draft prospect. He’s one of the top college pitchers and a likely early-round selection in June’s draft.
“The draft is the draft, and I’m going to let it play itself out,” Miller said. “I am worrying on what’s going on here and trying to win a national championship. The draft is going to be a product of whatever happens with my season.”
Stanford has used Miller mainly as a starter throughout his three years. He pitched as a weekday starter as a freshman before moving into the weekend rotation as a sophomore.
After posting a 4.07 ERA last year, Miller has improved this spring. In 12 starts, Miller has a 2.40 ERA with 73 strikeouts and 33 walks allowed in 63 2/3 innings.
Miller credits a change in mindset for his success this season. Last summer in the Cape Cod League, Miller started working with a mental coach. He talks to the coach on a biweekly basis about his goals and his performance on the mound.
In his first two seasons, Miller would allow innings to get away from him, he said. With a change in mentality, Miller is trying to trust his pitches and have an attacking mindset on the mound.
“I think just finding some consistency with my mechanics and also some mentality stuff I’ve worked on and changed has been key for me this year.” Miller said. “I think the past couple of years I’ve given up big crooked numbers, which hasn’t happened this year.”
Miller, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound lefty, has a three-pitch mix, featuring a fastball, slurve and changeup. He has two above-average offers in his fastball and slurve. His fastball is his top offering and works in the low-to-mid-90s.
He compliments his fastball with his slurve. It originally started as a curveball in high school but as his arm slot dropped and as he started throwing it hard, the pitch developed into a slurve. He has confidence with the pitch and it’s developed into his outpitch.
His even-keeled demeanor is his biggest strength, he said.
“Once the ball leaves my hand, I can’t control what goes on unless it’s hit to me,” Miller said. “Being able to maintain my composure is something I always pride myself on.”
His changeup is a developing pitch. He rarely used the pitch throughout his sophomore season, but once he was in the Cape Cod League, he knew he needed to develop a third offering. He found a comfortable grip late in the summer that he’s kept this season.
“If I throw it down in the zone with conviction, I will usually get a popup or swing through it,” Miller said. “It’s a weapon that allows me to work deep into games. It’s been something that’s been helpful this year in developing a third a pitch because I know in the professional ranks I’m going to need it.”
Miller might have the best repertoire of pitches in the crop of left-handed pitchers eligible for this year’s draft.
His inconsistencies with his command and mechanics have caused some professional scouts to consider him as a potential late-inning reliever, though. Miller understands the concerns and is trying to throw strikes on a consistent basis and build off the successes he’s had throughout his college career, he said.
“Making sure I get ahead of guys and not trying to do much is my focus,” Miller said. “I know if I get ahead of guys, I have a good chance of getting them out. I just want to keep building off of what I’ve done so far because that’s been working pretty well so far.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for four years. He’s interviewed 133 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.