Three young flamethrowers named Miller share more than a last name

July 9th, 2024

There’s been a lot of talk about the “Jackson 3” over the past year, and rightfully so. Rookie hitters , and are among the plethora of Jacksons who are giving fans an entire generation of similarly named prospects to look forward to.

But on the other side of the ball, there’s a trio of pitchers who have already made some history in their brief tenure in the Majors. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, since modern rookie eligibility rules were established in 1958, there had never been three rookies in a season with the same last name to play the same position (minimum five starts for pitchers or 20 games for position players) -- until the Millers came along last year.

None of the three Millers -- Bobby of the Dodgers, Bryce of the Mariners and Mason of the A’s -- are related to one another. But once you take genetic makeup out of the equation, there’s a lot that this group shares in common, in addition to a last name.

Consider these similarities:

  • All three are right-handed pitchers
  • All three are currently 25 years old (In fact, Bryce was born one day before Mason in August 1998)
  • All three were drafted out of college in the top four rounds – Bobby in 2020, Bryce and Mason in 2021
  • All three made MLB debuts within a span of slightly more than a month in 2023 (between April 19-May 23)
  • All three pitch for West division teams
  • All three have five letters in their first name

But beyond those surface-level categories, there is also this: All three have a chance to quickly become among the best at their position.

Let’s break them down further. (NOTE: All stats below are entering July 8 unless otherwise stated.)

One could easily argue that Bobby was the “blue-chip” recruit out of the trio. He was the only one who was drafted out of high school, as he was a 38th-round pick in 2017 out of McHenry High School (Ill.) before choosing to attend college instead. He was the only one who began his college career at a Division I school, as he played three seasons at Louisville. And he was the only one to be a first-round MLB Draft pick, doing so in 2020 courtesy of the Dodgers at 29th overall.

But all roads led to MLB for the Millers, and Bobby’s arrival time wasn’t too different from the others, with his first career start coming on May 23, 2023. A core difference between the debut season of Bobby compared to the other two, though, was that Bobby was on a playoff team -- and the team needed absolutely everything he had.

Oakland and Seattle both missed the postseason in 2023, but the Dodgers were busy becoming the first team in MLB history to have 100 wins in four consecutive non-shortened seasons. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, it’s the attrition that the Dodgers endured on their way there that made 2023 so remarkable.

Due to a nearly inconceivable combination of injuries, off-the-field problems, and trades, the Dodgers’ rotation was decimated last season. As a result, Bobby, a 24-year-old rookie who hadn’t even appeared in an MLB game until late May, ended up ranking second on a World Series-contending team in games started, innings pitched and strikeouts, trailing only in each. Though his 11-4 record was admittedly inflated by the historic offense playing behind him, Bobby’s 3.51 FIP, 1.10 WHIP and .283 wOBA made it evident that his debut season was a successful one.

Bobby had tough luck with the injury bug early in 2024, missing roughly two months due to shoulder issues. And when he has been on the mound, his numbers have regressed in his second MLB season, with a 1.60 WHIP and a 6.12 ERA (compared to a 3.76 ERA in 2023). But some silver linings are there. For example, while Mason has had MLB’s strongest arm this season (more on that below), Bobby hasn’t been too far behind, ranking in the 95th percentile of MLB in average fastball velocity.

Furthermore, he's still missing bats at a strong rate, with his 9.0 K/9 IP slightly ahead of his 8.6 value as a rookie. Walks have been an issue so far in the 2024 season (5.4 per 9 IP), but if he can keep those at bay, he should be a major factor for a Dodgers team that expects to be playing deep into October yet again.

Bryce, a Texas native, attended a pair of colleges in his home state, starting out at Blinn College (a junior college) before finishing at Texas A&M. He was picked in the fourth round of the 2021 MLB Draft, but it didn’t take him long to outperform his Draft slot.

His MLB debut came on May 2, 2023 with the Mariners, and he was almost immediately the talk of the sport. Through three starts, he had only allowed eight baserunners, the fewest by any player through his first three appearances since at least 1901 (min. 15 innings). Shortly after that, he became the first player in the same time span to pitch at least six innings and allow four or fewer hits in each of his first five career appearances.

He did eventually cool off -- as it was impossible not to -- but his body of work still gives Seattle fans a lot to look forward to. He finished his rookie season with a solid FIP of 3.98, while his WHIP (1.14) and K/BB ratio (4.58-to-1) were both substantially ahead of MLB’s averages (1.30 and 2.65-to-1).

From a Statcast perspective, Bryce’s calling card is that he blends velocity and control at a very impressive level. While he doesn’t quite have the sheer power that Mason and Bobby do, his average four-seamer velocity has been north of 95 mph in each of his MLB seasons.

Yet he still manages to find the strike zone quite often. Among 95 pitchers with at least 3,000 pitches since 2023, he ranks eighth with a 53.2% strike zone rate:

1. Miles Mikolas (STL): 55.3%
2. George Kirby (SEA): 54.9%
3. Justin Steele (CHC): 54.5%
4. Joe Ryan (MIN): 54.3%
5. Ryne Nelson (AZ): 54.1%
6. Mitch Keller (PIT): 53.7%
7. Brandon Pfaadt (AZ): 53.3%
8. Bryce Miller (SEA): 53.2%

Bryce is part of a rotation that has been, and can continue to be, special. With Bryce being joined by fellow big names like Logan Gilbert, Kirby and Luis Castillo, the Mariners’ starting pitching group was ranked as the best in the sport by entering the season.

And Bryce has done all he can to support that hypothesis so far in 2024. The biggest change to his game has been that he added a splitter to his repertoire during the offseason. Thus far, the adjustments appear to be paying off, with Bryce sporting a 3.84 ERA and 1.08 WHIP this season.

With Bryce and the rest of Seattle’s star-studded rotation living up to their reputation, the Mariners lead the AL West with a 48-41 record, and they lead the entire AL by allowing 3.76 runs per game. All in all, the Mariners' pitching has given the team a strong chance at its first division title in 23 years.

In terms of background, Mason and Bryce share similarities beyond their last name. As previously mentioned, Mason is one day younger than Bryce (Bobby is roughly seven months younger than both, for what it’s worth). Likewise, they were picked only one round apart in the same Draft, as Mason was a third-round pick by the A’s out of Gardner-Webb University in 2021. And they both began their college careers at non-Division I schools, with Mason beginning at D-III Waynesburg in his home state of Pennsylvania.

Need another connection between Bryce and Mason? As mentioned earlier in this story, Bryce’s first career start was on May 2, 2023 … and that came against none other than Mason and the A’s, as Mason was making his third career start at the time. In a remarkable duel of rookie Miller pitchers, Mason threw seven innings of no-hit ball, though his bullpen blew the lead as the Mariners ended up with a 2-1 victory.

Mason’s path took a slight divergence from the other Millers shortly after, though, as a UCL sprain led to him missing much of the 2023 season. While his rookie numbers were largely impressive -- a 3.47 FIP, 10.3 K/9 IP, and a .185 expected batting average among them -- he was limited to 33 1/3 innings, providing an unfortunate damper to the rising momentum of his career.

In an attempt to minimize the wear and tear on his arm, the A’s chose to move him to the bullpen for at least the 2024 season. And thus far, the new reliever version of Mason has been better than ever.

Mason was already a power pitcher in his rookie season, averaging 98.3 mph on his four-seamer and allowing a .186 xBA on such pitches. But with his arm being kept fresher out of the bullpen, he’s taken that to a new level this year. In fact, his average four-seamer velocity of 100.8 mph leads MLB, and he also has more pitches of 102+ mph (51) than any other player.

Fastest average four-seamer velocity, 2024
Among 290 pitchers with 150-plus four-seamers thrown

1. Mason Miller (OAK): 100.8 mph
2. Jhoan Duran (MIN): 100.3 mph
3. Ryan Helsley (STL): 99.4 mph
4. Paul Skenes (PIT): 99.2 mph
5-T. José Soriano (LAA): 98.9 mph
5-T. Trevor Megill (MIL): 98.9 mph

Beyond increased velocity, another notable change to Mason’s game in his sophomore season is a growing reliance on his slider. He used it on 23.8% of his pitches last year, but that number has nearly doubled to 38.3% in 2024, and he’s allowed a meager .140 batting average with the pitch this season.

Add all of that together, and you have the ingredients for an elite reliever this year -- if he doesn’t stay in that role beyond that. While he hasn’t had many save opportunities due to his team’s 34-58 record, he sports a 1.50 xERA, .125 xBA, and a ridiculous 15.8 K/9 IP. Because he didn't burn his rookie eligibility in 2023, he's on the very short list of favorites to win the AL Rookie of the Year award this season.

All in all, the Millers each bring some tantalizing traits to the table, and they’ve all already seen success in their brief MLB careers. There’s no such thing as a “sure thing” when it comes to pitchers, as Mason already found out by missing most of a season last year, and Bobby found out by missing two months this spring. But if all three pitchers continue on the trajectory they’re currently on, “Miller Time” will be slated to take the sport by storm.