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Owen Miller embraces versatility in AFL

Padres' No. 10 prospect among eight playing for the Javelinas
October 4, 2019

Owen Miller might not have the most familiar name among a deep crop of prospects in the San Diego Padres’ top-ranked farm system. But after an impressive first full professional season at Double-A Amarillo, Miller has firmly put himself on the big league radar as yet another rising star within

Owen Miller might not have the most familiar name among a deep crop of prospects in the San Diego Padres’ top-ranked farm system. But after an impressive first full professional season at Double-A Amarillo, Miller has firmly put himself on the big league radar as yet another rising star within the organization.

Selected by the Padres in the third round of the 2018 Draft out of Illinois State, Miller immediately opened eyes upon entering the pro ranks by slashing .336/.386/.460 across 75 games while reaching full-season Class A Fort Wayne. His steady performance prompted the Padres to send Miller straight to Double-A for the Texas League playoffs, and he filled in admirably for an injured Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop.

Returning to Double-A in 2019, Miller built upon his performance from the previous year by batting .290/.355/.430 and leading the Texas League with 147 hits, including 13 homers and 28 doubles. And while he continued to see most of his time at shortstop (71 games) at Amarillo, Miller also began to increase his defensive versatility with more reps at second (48) and third base (6).

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“At the end of the year I played a lot of second base -- something [the Padres] told me they wanted me to work on,” said Miller, the Padres’ No. 10 prospect.

Now playing for the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League, Miller is continuing to work at the keystone while playing with and against some of the other top prospects in the Minors.

“It’s been a fun process, just working with our infield coaches and working on it more here in the Fall League,” he said. “The transition’s gone pretty well -- this is my first year over there -- but it’s definitely been good and I hope to keep working at it.”

Miller has long been viewed by scouts as an above-average defender on the dirt, one who makes up for a lack of loud tools with excellent fundamentals, good instincts and all-around consistency. Those qualities combined with Miller’s equally consistent right-handed bat make it easy to envision the 22-year-old carving out a role in the big leagues -- and perhaps soon.

Meanwhile, Miller’s current trajectory to the Major Leagues resembles that of fellow Illinois State product Paul DeJong, who also spent his first full pro season at Double-A after being selected by the Cardinals in the fourth round of the 2015 Draft. DeJong went on to make his big league debut in May 2017, after beginning the year in Triple-A.

“We actually have the same agent. I met him when I was a freshman in college – he’d been drafted the year before -- and I’d heard many stories about him when he played at Illinois State,” Miller said about his relationship with the Cardinals’ All-Star shortstop.

“It was really cool when I was in college to see him progress through the Minors, and it’s been unbelievable to see what he’s done in the last couple years with the Cardinals. It’s nice to have someone like that, who’s in a similar situation and went through the same thing I did.”

Padres hitters in the AFL
Logan Driscoll, C/OF –
The Padres took Driscoll with the No. 73 overall pick this past June after a three-year career at George Mason in which he batted .337/.427/.513 with 17 homers and 108 RBIs in 146 games. The 21-year-old split his time between catcher and the outfield during his pro debut at Class A Short Season Tri-City, slashing .268/.340/.458 with three homers in 39 games.

Hudson Potts, 3B (No. 11) – Potts is back in the Fall League this year after batting .228 with a pair of homers in 21 games for Peoria as a 19-year-old in 2018. He missed a month with an oblique strain during the regular season but held his own offensively when healthy, producing a .696 OPS with 16 homers and 23 doubles in 107 games for Amarillo in his age-20 campaign.

Padres pitchers in the AFL
Elliot Ashbeck, RHP –
A former 16th-round pick (2015) out of Bradley University, Ashbeck, 25, garnered All-Star honors in the California League for a second straight season this year. Appearing in 33 games (eight starts) as a long-reliever/swingman, the right-hander compiled a 2.95 ERA with 102 strikeouts and 24 walks in 103 2/3 innings before moving up to Amarillo for the Texas League playoffs.

Osvaldo Hernandez, LHP – Signed out of Cuba in March 2017, Hernandez was sidelined with shoulder inflammation for much of the first half and didn’t make his season debut until June 30. The 21-year-old southpaw ultimately pitched in 12 games (10 starts) for Lake Elsinore, finishing with a 3.90 ERA in 32 1/3 innings.

Reiss Knehr, RHP – The Padres’ 20th-round pick from the 2018 Draft, Knehr showcased his bat-missing ability in his first full season by racking up 83 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings in the California League. But the 22-year-old righty also pitched to a 5.43 ERA and allowed 71 hits, including 11 home runs, and will need to improve both his control and command to be effective at higher levels.

Reggie Lawson, RHP (No. 21) – Lawson, whom the Padres selected with the No. 71 overall pick in the 2016 Draft, advanced to Double-A in 2019 but made only six starts before requiring a platelet-rich plasma injection for his balky right elbow that ultimately ended his season. When he’s healthy, the 22-year-old right-hander features a mid-90s fastball that he pairs with a hammer curveball in the mid-70s.

Jacob Nix, RHP (No. 28) – Nix reached the Majors with the Padres in August 2018 but was sidelined for most of ’19 after he opted to rehab a torn UCL in his right elbow rather than undergo Tommy John surgery. He made a healthy return late in July and finished his season with a pair of successful starts (11 IP, 1 ER, 12 K) at Triple-A El Paso.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.