Dodger Prospect #15 - LHP Greg Miller

Greg Miller

Many of us who have watched Clayton Kershaw streak up the ladder in the Dodgers system have suffered a bad case of deja vu -- we've seen all of this before. Dial your memory back to 2003 when a 19-year-old lefty made his debut in Vero Beach, then jumped to Jacksonville to make four more starts, recording a 1.01 earned run average and apparently jump-starting a long career.

Dodger fans saw young Greg Miller's face on the covers of magazines and baseball cards. Sliced bread, even if buttered, took a back seat to the lofty heights this youngster was going to conquer, probably before the age of 21.

Then the Dodgers supplemental first-round pick began having shoulder problems. They weren't supposed to be serious, we were told, but serious they were. The organization changed his motion from over-the-top to 3/4 but finding an angle from which he could deliver all his pitches and which at the same time he felt comfortable with wasn't easy.

The mystery of what happened to Miller's control has been one that has perplexed the Dodgers. It happens to pitcher every so often- they suddenly lose the way to the plate and wander in a wilderness of bases on balls. Think of Brooklyn's Rex Barney and Rick Ankiel of the Cards.

He didn't pitch in 2004, threw only 31.1 innings in 2005 and worked but 59.2 innings in 2006. Suddenly, there was no more talk about an arrival date at Dodger Stadium, underscoring a] how quickly most forget and b] how suddenly a golden pitching prospect can become just one of the pack.

He reported himself healthy, finally, in 2007. With a his fastball being tracked in the upper 90s and a devastating curve ball, his short stay with Triple-A Las Vegas was a disaster.

Home plate suddenly shrunk to the size of a matchbook and proportionally his earned run average ballooned to 7.85 ERA, mostly because of 46 walks in 28.2 innings.

Delighted to be back and healthy, he apparently put too much pressure on himself to succeed at that level. So he was dropped back to Double-A Jacksonville to get straightened out. He was clocked at 98 in Las Vegas, at 97 with Jacksonville. That plus his wicked curve. He still had all the quality pitches of a future big league star.

And in Jacksonville, he ran into a younger version of himself in Kershaw.

"It's fun to watch him throw," Miller said. "There aren't too many guys that have -- I don't want to make it sound like we're off the charts -- but there aren't too many guys who have the stuff we have. It's fun to be able to watch him attack hitters with the good fastball and good breaking ball. When I watched him, it kind of clicked in my head a little. There's no reason for me to be nibbling at these guys. Don't be too fine with strike one."

Miller had been told that often in his young career, "don't be too fin, let your stuff do the work." But watching Kershaw on the mound, he saw that principle in action.

"If you're not learning something from a kid like that with great stuff, something's wrong," Miller said. "If he wanted to come to me and ask me questions, I'm always there for that. But he's doing fine by himself. I try to let him experience that for himself."

The move down to Jacksonville seemed to have been the perfect prescription. His control, never wild, just off the plate a bit, "improved" and he allowed only 43 walks in 48 innings. Still too many by twice, but light years away from the debacle in Las Vegas.

"Physically, I feel awesome," Miller said. "My shoulder has been 100 percent the entire season, and this is the first time I could say that. I'm feeling stronger than when I started. Early in the season, [I was] getting mentally exhausted in Vegas and that took its toll. Now my head is in the right place."

Throughout the control thing, Miller was never hit hard. He surrendered only 19 hits in 28.2 innings with the 51s and 46 hits over 48 innings with the Suns. Overall he persevered, allowing 7.68 hits per nine innings (sixth on the final charts) and struck out 11.46 per nine innings, third overall.

And Miller realizes he's still poised for success. "I've definitely taken a lot different career path than most people," he said, "but I can't go back and change what happened. There's nothing I can do about it. But to still be 22 and in Double-A, and find myself here for the last couple of weeks as we made a push for the playoffs, it's really important to me."

This was one of the premier left-handed prospects in all the minors before his shoulder miseries set in late in 2003. To many he has become a forgotten man but the Dodgers can still see the stunning potential in this young man who has battled through so much adversary.

He should open with Las Vegas, unless he can demonstrate that the wildness is a thing of the past. In that case, he should be standing along the foul line on opening day in Los Angeles.

His record:
Greg David Miller   bl  tl  6-6  220
Born- November 3, 1984
Obtained- Selected in the first round (31st overall) of 2002 draft

year	team     w-l    era   gm   gs   in     h   bb   so   
2002	GFalls   3-2   2.37   11   7   38.0   27   13   37
2003	VBeach  11-4   2.49   21  21  115.2  103   41  111
        Jack	 1-1   1.01    4   4   26.2   15    7   40
2004	  Did not pitch
2005	GCL      0-0   2.25    4   3   12.0    7    4   14
	VBeach   1-0   0.93    5   3    9.2    4    7   10
	Jack	 0-0   2.77   12   0   13.0   14  15    17
2006	Jack	 1-0   0.79   11   0   22.2   12   13   24
	LVegas	 3-0   4.38   33   0   37.0    3   33   32
2006	LVegas	 1-1   7.85   14   7   28.2   19   46   32
	Jack	 1-2   4.69   20   7   48.0   46   43   65

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