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Bobby Miller: MLB Prospects Dynasty Pitcher Analysis for Fantasy Baseball

Bobby Miller - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, MLB Prospects, Draft Sleepers

Welcome back RotoBallers to my deep dive on Bobby Miller. In this Dynasty Pitcher Fantasy Baseball Prospects series, I will focus on key pitching fundamentals as quantified by my FaBIO (Fielding and Ballpark Independent Outcomes) evaluation system (my RotoBaller debut article more fully explains the FaBIO methodology).

Every plate appearance is sorted into one of 12 event type bins (BB+HBP, K, IFFB, Pull OFFB, Center OFFB, Oppo OFFB, Pull LD, Center LD, Oppo LD, Pull GB, Center GB, Oppo GB) and the pitcher is charged with league's average runs value for that event type. Eventually, we wind up with a slew of fundamentals-rooted percentile ratings expressed on a 100 to zero scale where 97 is plus plus, 84 is plus, 50 is average, and 16 is minus.

An all-in-one Overall Rating quantifies the pitcher's expected run avoidance per batter faced, but given our relative prioritization of fundamentals over run and hit outcomes before the MLB, we will commit more attention to its three core sub-Ratings of Control (or CTL, based on BB+HBP per PA), Strikeout (or K, based on K per PA), and Batted Ball Profile (or BBP, based on expected run avoidance per batted ball). Sub-Ratings of Batted Ball Profile like GB Rating (groundballs per batted ball), IFFB Rating (infielder flyballs per batted ball), and others yield insight into both approach and key characteristics of the fastball arsenal.

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Bobby Miller, the Collegian

Bobby Miller rated right around plus overall both as a 2018 freshman (85 Overall Rating) and 2019 sophomore (80 Overall Rating) at Louisville while averaging about 16 batters faced per game and 250 total batters. His FaBIO profile leaned more toward weak contact than strikeouts then.

All of Overall, K, and Batted Ball Profile Ratings were getting up into the mid 90s as COVID-19 ended the 2020 NCAA D1 campaign in mid-March, and that despite an increase in per game workload to 23 BF/G.

Miller had nearly closed the gap between his Batted Ball Profile Rating and K Rating over the final two seasons but the former still led his fundamentals. In all three D1 seasons, AVG avoidance similarly led ISO avoidance on batted balls, an offshoot of better avoiding line drives than outfield flyballs and pull-third outfield flyballs.

Two factors seen on the collegiate FaBIO scorecard stood to lower his future ceiling as an MLB starting pitcher prospect:

  1. he had yet to fully dominate college batters at strikeouts, calling into question the strength of the offspeed arsenal at generating whiffs
  2. opposite-handed batter outcomes (per OHB Overall Rating) trailed same-handed batter outcomes moderately to more in each of the 2020 junior and 2019 sophomore seasons, which could set him up to be vulnerable to lineup stacking with lefthanded batters if he remained a starter

 

Bobby Miller, the Draftee

Miller would go a bit sooner than some projected in the 2020 MLB Draft as Dodgers took him with the 29th overall pick just as the regular phase of the first round was wrapping up.

Dodgers have a unique organizational affinity for power fastballs that induce weak batted ball contact (May, Graterol, etc.), so it was not so surprising that they would target his then mid to upper 90s heater that had a track record of success at the fundamental.

A $2.2M bonus came in $200K under slot value, allowing Dodgers to get their coveted fastball type while also saving some money for other picks.

 

Bobby Miller, the MiLBer

Miller spent the period after the draft at the organization's alternate training sites in the greater Los Angeles area.

Before a first official minor league game, he would make four appearances (18 BF) in 2021 MLB spring training games with batted ball profile again leading his FaBIO fundamentals (91 Overall: 18 Ctl, 52 K, 100 Batted Ball Profile (89 GB, 72 IFFB, 99 LD Avoid, 33 OFFB Avoid, 85 Pull OFFB Avoid).

The Dodgers would manage his workload fairly conservatively ahead, assigning him to High A where he averaged just 13 BF/G over 188 batters before going up to AA for a cup of coffee not long after a one-month Injured List stint for most of August.

He faced another 47 batters over five games in the Arizona Fall League to make up for the earlier lost time, and again batted ball profile continued to lead the fundamentals portfolio (65 Overall: 15 Ctl, 34 K, 98 Batted Ball Profile (82 GB, 25 IFFB, 92 LD Avoid, 41 OFFB Avoid, 79 Pull OFFB Avoid).

Around the batted-ball-profile-heavier spring training and fall league stints, Miller's 2021 minor league season out-generation fundamentals actually favored K over Batted Ball Profile for the first time, with more of that disparity owed to an end-of-season AA K spike and Batted Ball Profile swoon.

Among what limited excitement in Miller's 2021 MiLB debut was that he had not rated plus at either K or Batted Ball Profile for the A+ and AA stint combined and that despite only averaging 14 batters a game.

On the brighter side, he posted a career-high Opposite-Handed Batters Overall Rating of 90 though even that desirable "startery" gain came at expense of a clear decline in Same-Handed Batters outcomes versus past.

Miller would get into just a single 2022 MLB Spring Training tilt for 11 batters and yet again batted ball profile ruled the profile (66 Overall: 3 Ctl, 26 K, 99 Batted Ball Profile (49 GB, 93 IFFB, 90 LD Avoid, 33 OFFB Avoid, 90 Pull OFFB Avoid).

Once minor league camp wrapped, he returned to the AA Tulsa squad where his 2021 minor league season ended and has remained there and active since with his per game workload now up to 19 BF/G.

While Miller's 4.87 ERA as of August 8th may not impress, he recently rated 98 Overall on the FaBIO scales with both K and Batted Ball Profile in the vicinity of one and a half plus.

Beyond that, he has overall ratings for each of Opposite-Handed Batters and Same-Handed in the mid-90s and as such has no lineup batter-handedness vulnerability to circumnavigate for the first time.

A subtler change in batted ball outcomes since college is that his profile now skews ISO avoidance (OFFB Avoid + Pull OFB) over AVG avoidance (LD Avoid) on batted balls, and that is largely due to him not avoiding line drives as well as he should be given GB Ratings and OFFB Avoid Ratings in the range of half to beyond full plus (this reflects more of a velocity over movement bias in the harder stuff).

If there is one particular thing the Dodgers should work with Miller on ahead it would be improving movement within the fastball arsenal, as his four LD Avoids in the table are all in the range of just 23 to 53. Would it be worthwhile to trade a few ticks of velocity to get there?

 

Bobby Miller, the MLBer

Projecting ahead to MLB Miller seems a surer starter with a batted ball profile (somewhat) over strikeouts over control bias, yet with all three fundamentals likelier rating in the average to full plus range he would have a relatively high floor near to mid-rotation level.

Imagine a Spencer Turnbull, who was not quite so heavy on groundballs but rated half plus or so on non-batted-ball outcomes (control and strikeouts).

Yes, there are also some similarities to how Dustin May rated before his early 2021 short-lived breakout. Other Miller fundamentals compare favorably to those of Sandy Alcantara, Charlie Morton, Logan Webb, Zack Wheeler, Sonny Gray, and Luis Castillo though expecting him to replicate any of that group's peak seasons may be unrealistic for now.

Between the higher fastball velocities and limited pro workloads to date, Miller could wind up merely a five to six frames per start sort. I doubt Miller would ever rate above full plus at each of the strikeouts and batted ball profile simultaneously as an MLB starter since to raise one measurably in his particular case would likely require sacrifices in the other.

Dodgers relief fireballer Brusdar Graterol is now nursing a troublesome shoulder that renders his postseason availability uncertain. We could see an else not Rule 5 Draft eligible until after 2023 Bobby Miller debut in the Dodgers bullpen in September 2022 as an insurance policy of sorts on Graterol's status.

Swapping some of the Graterol groundballing weak contact ability for a few more ticks of whiffs yields an outcomes mix very similar to what Miller could deliver over shorter spurts in October. The hypothetical 2022 MLB FaBIO line stands to be much stouter over eight-ish batters per game than at a more starter-like 18 per tilt.

 

Relevance to Fantasy Baseball Leagues

Dynasty league owners need not sweat Miller's 2022 AA ERA. Value him as a higher-floored MLB starter and future SP2 candidate with a batted ball profile over strikeouts over control bias while expecting all three fundamentals to eventually rate in average to plus range once he has more fully cut his big league rotation teeth.

Do so understanding that his initial control and strikeouts outcomes as a MLB starter likely fall back a decent amount with a relatively better batted ball profile anchoring his results until the non-batted-ball outcomes rise with experience.

Value him somewhat less in leagues where the points system emphasizes strikeouts more, owing to a combination of the present groundball bias to batted ball profile that limits whiffs at fastballs and does not so ideally set up whiffs for an offspeed arsenal that may remain short of a fully plus whiff generator.

And vice versa as he will be relatively more valuable in leagues that place greater emphasis on the batted ball fundamentals.

If a 2022 MLB bullpen audition does come to pass, Miller would not figure to offer much in the way of either saves or wins value to fantasy leaguers.

He may not be allowed to go the required three frames to collect the lopsided victory save or be in there long enough in the middle frames to vulture wins as a follower behind an opener.

A 2022 debut would mean though that his first option year would be at a higher risk to be lost at the start of 2023, which would lower his prospective fantasy value a few notches by introducing relatively more future reliever risk than exists today.

In non-dynasty leagues, I would advise valuing Miller for 2023 in the range of a lower-volumed mid-rotation starter as he may require one to two dozen starts before the non-batted-ball outcomes trend more in the above-average direction by MLB starter standards.



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