The Ryan Miller File
Born: Dec. 14, 1986 in Houston, TX
Acquired: 36th-round draft pick in 2006 from Blinn (TX) College.
Strengths: The last draft-and-follow player signed by Cleveland has settled down and become a solid starter with a very good 12-to-6 curveball. Also throws an 87-91 mph fastball, slider and changeup. Was 8-7 with a 3.72 ERA in 24 starts (26 games) at Lake County.
Weaknesses: Fastball will not blow anyone away. Still working on mechanics and control of fastball. Walked 74 in 125 2/3 innings last year.
2009 Projection: Will likely start season at Kinston.
2008 & MINOR-LEAGUE CAREER
BONUS COVERAGE: This article is reprinted from the September 2007 issue of Indians Ink Magazine:
Draft-And-Follow Pick Miller Gets Big Bonus
By FRANK DERRY
Money talks. Or, more accurately in Ryan Miller's case, it screamed, "Sign!! Now!!!"
The 6-0, 195-pound left-hander, who was a 36th-round draft choice of the Indians in 2006, decided that rather than sign immediately, he would return to Blinn (Tx.) Junior College for his sophomore season. It was a decision that paid off in a number of ways.
For one thing, he put up incredible numbers for the Bucs, going 9-0 with a 2.05 ERA in 15 starts this past season.
The best number, however, was the $450,000 bonus the Indians offered him to sign in May as a draft-and-follow player.
More often than not, a player picked in the 36th round is lucky to get any type of signing bonus. But Miller had a few factors working in his favor.
First of all, the Indians had some extra money to spend due to the fact they didn't have a second or third round draft choice in the 2007 draft. Secondly, he had the option to go back into this year's draft when he likely would have been selected much earlier than the 36th round.
Finally, Miller had already signed an offer sheet and was set to receive a full scholarship from the University of Arkansas if he opted not to turn pro this year.
"I had a lot of options," Miller said.
He knew there were risks involved with either of those two options. "I was told I would likely go in the third or fourth round, maybe even one or two," Miller said. "But that was a little risky because sometimes what you hear isn't always true. I could have gone later.
"And continuing on in college is also risky because you can always get hurt," he said. So he had his advisor tell the Indians what it would take for him to sign. "The number they (the Indians) came up with ($450,000) was a little lower than what I wanted, but they came close enough," Miller said. "The money they offered me was right in there with what I would have gotten had I been a third or fourth round choice this year."
Miller thus became one of the very last true draft-and-follow players to sign. Starting with the 2007 draft, Major League Baseball did away with the traditional draft-and-follow scenario by requiring all players to sign by the middle of August. The negotiating rights to players who have not signed by that date are no longer owned by the team that drafted them.
Soon after signing, Miller began his pro career with the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers, where he struggled with his control in the early going.
Veteran pitching coach Ken Rowe, who is with the Scrappers this year, says Miller's early control problems are nothing to worry about.
"A young pitcher will have a lot of adrenalin flowing in his first few starts," Rowe said. "He has the makings of a good pitcher. He has a good fastball, a good breaking ball and a good change-up. Those are three components that make a pitcher.
"I don't expect too much out of new guys in their first few starts, but he knows what he has to do and he'll make the adjustments."
Miller says that for some reason he has been "getting under the ball."
In a normal situation, Miller would likely be able to work through his problems. But the Indians had him on a very strict pitch count in the early going which restricted his ability to make adjustments.
"Things like this happen to everyone at some point in their career," Miller said. "The important thing isn't that it happens, but rather how you deal with it. It's been a long time since something like this has happened to me. It humbles you and makes you realize you are not untouchable."
Miller has tasted almost nothing but success since he started pitching as a 7-year-old. By the age of 10, he was a member of a select team that traveled all over the country playing in various tournaments.
"On my very first team, we were the Indians," he recalled. "We had the same exact uniforms as the Cleveland Indians, so I started to watch them at that time."
Miller received some outstanding coaching as a member of Baseball USA out of Houston, plus he had the added benefit of receiving some personal coaching from his uncle, Chad Peck, a former minor league pitcher who reached the Class AA level in the Texas Rangers organization in he mid 1990s.
"He was always able to tell me what I was doing wrong and how to fix it," Miller said. Miller put up some respectable numbers while at Cy-Fair High School in Houston, including a 6-1 record with a sub-4 ERA his senior year, but he went undrafted.
He received full scholarship offers from several schools, including Blinn Junior College, a small school about 40 minutes west of Houston. "I decided on Blinn because I knew I would get an opportunity to pitch there and that the coaching staff would be able to get me to where I wanted to go," he said. "They have a great coaching staff."
Brian Roper is the veteran head coach at Blinn, while Harvey McIntyre serves as pitching coach. "Coach McIntyre taught me how to make adjustments," Miller said of his biggest improvement from high school.
As a freshman at Blinn, Miller went 6-3 with a 3.01 ERA. In 68 2/3 innings, he struck out 83 and walked 35. He followed that by going 9-0 with a 2.05 ERA as a sophomore. In 93 2/3 innngs, he struck out 115 and walked 48.
Miller's fastball will usually be clocked right around 90, but he has hit 94 on the radar gun. "It just seems like there are some days when I have it and can throw as hard as I want, then some days I don't," he said. "Hopefully I have it more days than not."
His performance at Blinn definitely attracted a lot of attention from major colleges. He would like to have gone to either Texas or Texas A&M, but he never even got a sniff from Texas, while A&M didn't have a big enough scholarship available.
Thus he chose Arkansas because of the coaching staff and the level of competition he would be facing in the Southeast Conference. Those plans quickly changed when the Indians made him "an offer he couldn't refuse."
He hopes to quickly repay the Indians for their investment. "I know I have to be patient, but I hope it's no more than a few years (before he makes it to the majors)," he said. "A lot depends on how motivated you are. I feel I have a great work ethic and have the ability to stay on top of things."