Top pick Miller knows Phillies, ready to get started soon

July 11th, 2023

grew up about 25 minutes north of BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Fla., where he watched the Phillies play more Grapefruit League games than he can remember.

Miller and his teammates once ran onto the field with the Phillies before the national anthem. He has a few autographs from Phils players, he said. Maybe even Jimmy Rollins’.

“It’s really cool to see it all come full circle,” Miller said Tuesday over the phone.

The Phillies selected Miller with the 27th overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft on Sunday night. The two sides have reached an agreement on a deal, but it won't become official until he passes a physical. In the meantime, Miller still has his college commitment to play at Arkansas. Miller, 19, is a 6-foot-2, 205-pound shortstop from J.W. Mitchell High School in Trinity, Fla. He missed his senior season after he broke the hamate bone in his left hand in his first at-bat of the year.

“I felt it a little bit in BP, then that first pitch,” Miller said. “I fouled a ball back, kind of how Mike Trout did it this year. I felt like a snap or a pop in my hand and kind of instantly knew what it was then. Yeah, it stinks, but everything happens for a reason. It’s all right.”

The injury and the idea that 19-year-old seniors are arguably more difficult to project might have caused Miller to fall in the first round. Miller, who MLB Pipeline ranked the No. 13 prospect, was held back a year around the sixth or seventh grade with the idea that it might help him get a baseball scholarship one day. Nobody knew then that he would become a first-round talent.

Miller had surgery on his hand in late February. He invited every team to watch a workout at the University of Tampa in late May.

Obviously, the Phillies liked what they saw.

“It showed that I’m healthy, that I’m back,” Miller said. “I’m fully 100 percent now. I’m feeling great. I have no problems.”

Still, Miller said he had no inkling about what might happen in the Draft. Would he be picked on Sunday? If so, where?

“Really just going into the night, not having any idea,” he said. “And the Phillies? I had no idea. We didn’t really talk too much. Not playing all spring, it was tough for a lot of people to get looks at me. But, yeah, just falling down a little bit on the board, but getting picked by the Phillies made it a great night.”

Miller batted .385 (72-for-187) with 15 doubles, seven triples, eight home runs, 47 RBIs and a 1.176 OPS in 62 games at J.W. Mitchell. He won the All-American MVP Award and the High School Home Run Derby title during All-Star festivities at Dodger Stadium in July 2022.

“It was [Kyle] Schwarber vs. [Albert] Pujols [in the MLB Home Run Derby], and we went right after them,” Miller said. “Pujols won that round, so the crowd was going crazy. And then we got to hit after that round. It was nuts. The fans were all hyped up. It made it more nerve-wracking, but it was great. It was definitely a little intimidating at first looking into the crowd seeing like 50,000 fans going crazy. I was nervous, but after that first swing, I kind of locked in and it kind of felt like BP. I didn’t feel anything until after the round. It was great.”

If Miller sounds like somebody who is comfortable in a big moment, perhaps it is because he comes from a baseball family. The Rangers selected his father, Jason, in the 24th round of the 1994 Draft. The Reds selected his brother, Jackson, in the second round of the 2020 Draft. Jason Miller owns Courthouse Performance Center in Oldsmar, Fla., which is a baseball facility with a full infield and several batting cages with a HitTrax system.

“It’s pretty much my second home,” Miller said.

Several big leaguers trained there during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, including Pete Alonso, Marcus Stroman, Dominic Smith and Luke Maile.

“We did live BP Fridays,” Miller said. “All those big leaguers would throw, and I’d be standing in there and hitting against Stroman and Clay Holmes. It was a lot of fun.”

Wait, wouldn’t that have made Miller a freshman when he faced Stroman?

“Yep,” Miller said, laughing. “Standing in there and hitting against Marcus Stroman was pretty dang cool.”

Life is about to get cooler. Soon, Miller expects to be at Carpenter Complex in Clearwater, beginning his professional baseball career. Further down the road, perhaps a kid will run up next to him before the national anthem plays before another Grapefruit League game at BayCare Ballpark.

“I’m just ready to get started,” Miller said. “I just want to play baseball. It’s been too long.”