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Dodgers 'perfect organization' for top pick Miller

Hard-throwing Louisville righty selected at No. 29 overall
@kengurnick
June 11, 2020

LOS ANGELES -- Some clubs draft for need. Some take the best player available. The Dodgers just rely on the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern Conferences. They took hard-throwing University of Louisville right-handed pitcher Bobby Miller with the 29th overall pick in the first round on Wednesday, keeping the trend alive.

LOS ANGELES -- Some clubs draft for need. Some take the best player available. The Dodgers just rely on the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern Conferences.

They took hard-throwing University of Louisville right-handed pitcher Bobby Miller with the 29th overall pick in the first round on Wednesday, keeping the trend alive.

“We expect him to race through the Minor Leagues,” said vice president of amateur scouting Billy Gasparino. “We expect him to be a fast riser given his talent level, makeup and past performance.”

Draft Tracker: Complete pick-by-pick coverage | 2020 Draft Central

The Draft continues on Thursday with Rounds 2-5. The MLB Network preview show begins at 4 p.m. ET, with live coverage on MLB Network and ESPN2 beginning at 5 p.m. ET. Go to MLB.com/Draft for complete coverage, including every pick on the Draft Tracker, coverage and analysis from MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter.

The Dodgers will make five picks on Thursday, included the 66th overall pick between the second and third rounds. That Competitive Balance Round B pick came to the Dodgers from Minnesota in the Kenta Maeda/Brusdar Graterol trade. For the six picks, the Dodgers have a total bonus pool of $5,928,400, with an assigned value of $2,424,600 for the first-round pick.

This is the fifth time in six years Gasparino has used a first-round pick on an ACC or SEC player, and the third time with Louisville after catcher Will Smith in 2017 and Kyle Funkhouser (a compensatory pick who did not sign) in '15.

The others are Walker Buehler (Vanderbilt) in 2015, Jeren Kendall (Vanderbilt) in '17 and Michael Busch (North Carolina) in '19.

“It does seem to fall that way. It’s not anything we pre-planned, I swear,” Gasparino said of the regional draft bias.

Marty Lamb, the signing scout for Buehler, Smith and Kendall, as well as former Dodger pitcher Chad Billingsley and catcher A.J. Ellis, is the scout credited for taking Miller. This is Lamb’s 22nd Draft with the club.

“Give a lot of credit to Marty Lamb, he rang the bell early after [Miller's] first start this year,” Gasparino said. “Everything [Lamb] says we take as gospel, especially this year [with limited game visibility]. And to their credit, the college programs in that area do a good job recruiting and developing talent.”

Gasparino said Miller, 21, was “an intriguing option” entering the season, then improved his stock.

“We were a little concerned with his strike-throwing command, secondary pitches, but give the kid credit, he made big adjustments in his delivery, in his slider,” he said. “His fastball rose by three mph. It all came together for him, and he became a potential pick to click, and we saw his first start and it was like, wow, it happened.”

Miller, who grew up a Cubs fan in suburban Chicago, said if he had to compare his pitching style and release mechanics to another MLB pitcher, it would be Justin Verlander -- but he said his favorite pitcher to watch now is future teammate Buehler.

“He’s so electric on the mound, and that’s how I try to be,” Miller said. “His competitiveness, something I take big pride in, being the biggest competitor on the field. There’s absolutely no doubt that he is the biggest competitor on the field when he’s on the mound. And the way he’s not a big guy and the way he makes himself look so intimidating on the mound is something I really love to watch. And his stuff is just way more than advanced.”

Miller relies on a pair of fastballs in the upper 90s, two- and four-seamers, to make him one of the hardest-throwing right-handers in this class. He’s 6-5, 220 pounds and was drafted in the 38th round in 2017 by the Orioles. He sustained a right knee injury a week before that Draft and didn’t sign, but said he was headed to Louisville anyway.

10 things to know about Bobby Miller

Before this season was stopped because of the coronavirus, Miller had a 2.31 ERA with 34 strikeouts across 23 1/3 innings in his first four starts. That included a career-high 12 strikeouts in a win against Valparaiso University on Feb. 22.

He’s been both a starter and reliever and his future role was debated by some scouts, but Gasparino said he’s planning on Miller starting.

“I like to think I am starter, and I think I’ve been proving a lot of people wrong this year,” Miller said. “I showed I can hold velocity and I added a new pitch, and this is the perfect organization to help me get better.”

The new pitch is a cutter, to go with a changeup that Miller said was originally his best pitch.

Miller was at Louisville for the Draft, as was teammate Reid Detmers, taken in the first round by the Angels. Detmers was sent a cap of each team for the inevitable photo, and Miller borrowed the Dodgers lid.

“I’m not going to lie, this hat’s hurting my head. He’s got a small head,” Miller said.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.