Dodgers 2020 First-Rounder Bobby Miller Talks Pitching

Bobby Miller doesn’t lack for confidence, and for good reason. Ranked No. 8 on our Los Angeles Dodgers Top Prospects list, the 21-year-old right-hander pairs electric stuff with a first-round pedigree. Selected 29th overall last year out of the University of Louisville, Miller excelled against SEC competition, and he’s gotten off to an excellent start in pro ball. Pitching for the High-A Great Lakes Loons, he’s allowed just eight hits and two runs, with 17 strikeouts, in five starts comprising 14.1 innings.

Miller talked about his growth as a pitcher, and the power arsenal he takes to the mound, following his last outing.


David Laurila: How would you describe yourself as a pitcher?

Bobby Miller: “I’d like to say I’m the most confident person out there. Other than that, I have velocity and a lot of other pitches. I’m four-seam, two-seam, changeup, slider, curveball. I’m also working on a different slider right now. But yeah, I’m always going to bring the energy out there. No doubt about that. I think that’s a good way to describe me.”

Laurila: Is being “the most confident guy out there” ever a negative?

Miller: “No, I don’t think so. Not at all. I think it can help pick the rest of our team up, as well. Depending on how the game is going… maybe it’s a super-close game. I like to show how confident I am.”

Laurila: How about when you’re getting hit? Are you going to keep challenging hitters?

Miller: “I’m always going to keep challenging hitters, no matter how good or bad I’m doing. Whatever is working for me best that day, I’m going to stick with that until they prove they can do something with it. If they do, then I start going to my other stuff.”

Laurila: Do you identify as a power-pitcher?

Miller; “Yeah. I became a lot more of a strike-thrower after college. It may not look like that right now — I’ve had some walks — although my last outing [four scoreless innings with no walks] was a lot better. Overall, I feel like I’ve become more of a strike-thrower. And my stuff has gotten better, too; the off-speed has gotten better. Luckily, I’ve had all the help in the world. Last summer, instructs, spring training — all the pitching coaches and coordinators we have. I mean, it’s been unreal. I’m truly buying into what they’re saying.”

Laurila: How have you become a better strike-thrower? Is it mostly mental, or is it more mechanical?

Miller: “Kind of both. Just trust in my stuff, no matter how good or bad it is that day. I’m always going to have confidence in myself, whether I’m throwing strikes or not throwing strikes. Like I said, I’m always going to keep challenging guys. But yeah, I’ve also cleaned up some stuff mechanics-wise. Since I’ve been with the Dodgers, we’re able to get a lot more video. That helps a lot.”

Laurila: The Dodgers are big on technology and pitching analytics…

Miller: “I’ve learned a lot about the metrics, like vertical break, horizontal break, spin axis, spin rate — finding ways that I can improve on all of those. Where are my pitches going to play best?

“I’ve developed my four-seam better since college. The mechanical adjustments I’ve made have helped with that. It’s a cleaner delivery. I’m moving a little faster on the mound now, which has helped with the spin on my fastball.”

Laurila: Can you elaborate on “moving a little faster on the mound”?

Miller: “I lost some weight after college, just kind of cleaning up my body a little bit. Trying to be a little more smooth on the mound has also helped. Smooth is fast. I first heard that from one of our pitching coordinators, Rob Hill. Whenever I’m losing location, especially with my fastball, I’ve got to think, ‘Just be smooth, and things will work out better.’”

Laurila: Can you say a little more about your four-seamer?

Miller: “I’m getting some more vertical [movement]. I’m getting more takes at the bottom of the zone on my fastball than I used to, and more swings high in the zone than I used to. That’s a huge difference for me. Coming out of college, I was throwing almost all two-seamers, and the four-seamer has helped a lot with sequencing — setting up my slider, curveball, or changeup.”

Laurila: The two-seamer is a pitch you’ve relied on pretty heavily…

Miller: “Yeah, but not nearly as much anymore. I kind of keep it in my back pocket now. I go over game plans with [Loons pitching coach] Ryan Dennick, and we’ve got [assistant pitching coach] Durin [O’Linger] here as well. Those two guys are really good with game-planning. Sometimes we’ll go over sequencing, what I can throw against certain guys, and whether I’m going to bring that two-seam against certain hitters. I like going into a game with a good game plan.”

Laurila: Is your two-seamer depth-y, or is it more run?

Miller: “It used to be both. I’d like to say I can still get it there, although it’s a little harder for me to get sink than I used to.”

Laurila: Why aren’t you getting as much depth on the two-seam?

Miller: “My arm slot has gotten slightly higher over the past year. Nothing intentional at all. Nobody’s ever mentioned to me that I should have my arm slot higher, it’s just naturally changed for me. But I think it’s worked out for the best. I like throwing the four-seam now. I used to not like it as much — I used to always love throwing the two-seam — but now I love the four. That said, I’m going to keep that two-seam in my back pocket. I’m going to still have it.”

Laurila: Where is your velocity right now?

Miller: “My last game I was 95-98. Here and there, I can top out at 99, although I haven’t done that in a while. I haven’t been topping out as high since college, but my average fastball velocity has gotten better. I was 95-98 in my first inning yesterday, and in my fourth inning I was still the same. Before, I wasn’t holding that into the fourth, fifth, sixth inning. Now I’ve been able to maintain that.”

Laurila: What can you tell me about your off-speed stuff?

Miller: “In college, the big struggle for me was always the curveball. Over the summer, when I first started with the Dodgers at USC, is when I learned the spike curveball. I learned that pretty quick and it became my go-to strikeout pitch for a while. Starting off this season, I haven’t been commanding it very well. That’s something we’ve been working on each week in my bullpens. Eventually I’ll get that back. My changeup keeps getting better and my slider keeps getting better, and now I need my curveball back to where it was. I’m going to get it back soon and bring it into a game again.”

Laurila: What do you consider your best secondary?

Miller: “Right now I’d say my change. That’s usually always been my best secondary. Especially in college. I’m seeing which ways my changeup can play best, seeing how much depth I can get on it. But I don’t want to go too crazy on that — how much depth I can get — because I want to be able to land that for a strike whenever I want. But it’s a strikeout pitch for me, like my slider.”

Laurila: How do you grip your changeup?

Miller: “I’m kind of on the horseshoe. It’s a circle change.”

Laurila: A four-seam circle or a two-seam circle?

Miller: “Neither. It’s kind of hard to explain. I’ve actually got a couple different grips. I’ve got a lot of grips with a lot of pitches. I change things up all the time. Right now, I have two different sliders. One of them I haven’t thrown yet this season, but I did throw some in spring training.

“One of my sliders is usually around 84-86. That’s my bigger one that has a little more depth and a little more glove-side movement. I also have another kind of slider, or slutter — whatever you want to call it. Cutter. It can be harder and run up to the upper-80s, low-90s. But yeah, I haven’t thrown that yet this season. Hopefully I can bring that in, but at the same time I don’t want to get too caught up in that stuff. I obviously want to go with what’s working best for me.”

Laurila: It sounds like you spend a lot of time trying to see what your pitches can do. You must enjoy throwing in front of a Rapsodo and an Edgertronic.

Miller: “Yeah, although what I use a lot is TrackMan. I have it in every single one of my bullpens. We’ve got the two pitching coaches here — Dennick and Durin — and they’re geniuses with that stuff. They pay attention to that during my whole bullpen. They’re always making sure our team is on the right track, that we’re continuing to get better.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Smiling Politely
Smiling Politely

Great stuff, as always; fun to hear about how coaches and rooks collaborate and grow