July 10, 2023
As always, we're not going to see the results of the MLB Draft for a few years, but on Sunday night, the Phillies took a gamble on upside that could eventually see them with a new star infielder at some point down the line.
At 27th overall, the Phils picked up Florida high schooler Aidan Miller, an impressive hitter – both for his contact and power – who likely would've been taken higher had it not been for a broken hamate bone in his hand that cost him his senior season.
He slipped to the Phillies though, and they couldn't be happier that he did.
“The big attraction with Aidan is the bat,” Brian Barber, the club's director of amateur scouting, said after the selection (via MLB.com). “He was just one of the best hitters in the country that we saw. It’s a combination of hit and power, there’s strength, there’s ability to hit the ball hard, there’s bat-to-ball skills. It’s just a guy that we walked away from last year and we just absolutely loved the bat.”
And now that they have him, what can his ceiling really be?
Here's what they're saying about Miller and the Phils after the first round of the MLB Draft:
The first thing any fan wants to know about an incoming prospect is who he compares to, and with Millers' projected power and plate discipline, the Phillies could be looking at a player a lot like Josh Donaldson in a few years' time – who if you'll remember, was an All-Star and MVP-level bat in his prime.
Wrote Dan Mullen of why the Phillies went with Miller:
Miller has been one of the most well-known players in this class since his mid-teens, winning MVP of the Under Armour High School All-America Game and the 2022 High School Home Run Derby at All-Star Weekend. He has drawn comparisons to Donaldson for both his power swing and ability to draw walks, showing plus power against high-level competition. So how did he fall here? Miller is already 19 years old and was slowed by a hamate bone injury that derailed his senior season this spring. [ESPN.com]
That broken hamate bone in Miller's hand prevented clubs from seeing him play in his senior season, and combined with already being 19 as a high-school prospect, that likely drove some of them away.
But before the injury, he was one of the best hitters in the high-school class, and since it was late into the first round already, the Phillies weren't going to let missed time scare them away from all that potential.
Maybe they're taking a bigger gamble here, but the payoff, if it turns out, will be huge.
This could end up looking like one of the steals of the first round when we look back at it. Miller won the High School Home Run Derby and All-American Game MVP honors in Los Angeles a year ago and looked like he might be one of the best high school hitters in the class. But he missed most of his senior year after breaking the hamate bone between the palm and wrist of his left hand, making him harder to evaluate. Miller has the chance to hit, and with a ton of power. Even though he was announced as a shortstop, he might profile best at the hot corner. [MLB.com]
And the thing is, had everything gone as planned and Miller stayed healthy, he was probably looking at being a top-10 or top-15 selection.
A gift may have fallen all the way down to the Phils here.
Wrote Keith Law, who had Miller as the 19th-best prospect on his board:
I’m glad Miller still ended up in the first round after his spring was ruined by a broken hamate bone, something that can linger for months and sap a hitter of his power – so even if he went to work out for clubs, there’s no guarantee he’d show the full extent of his abilities. He’s got 55 to 60 power already, at least when healthy, and showed good feel to hit when he could get his hands extended, although stuff on the inner third gives him some trouble. He’s a third baseman now and should be able to stay there. This seems like a great value play, because most folks believed he’d be a top-20 pick going into the spring. [The Athletic, $]
Miller's selection at No. 27 speaks larger to how the Phillies' drafting philosophy has changed as well.
This is now the fourth straight draft where they've used their first-round selection on a high-school prospect, after taking Mick Abel in 2020, Andrew Painter in 2021, then Justin Crawford in 2022. The major league team isn't rebuilding anymore, they're gunning after a World Series and will have that core roster together over the next several years in pursuit of it.
The mission for the farm now is to bring prospects along for the long term to keep that window open as long as possible. Miller, provided he can develop, can definitely help with that in a few years' time.
Yeah, it's a gamble. But as Jack Fritz explained after the pick came in on WIP's High Hopes podcast, it's the kind of a gamble made by an organization that's always in it.
"It's such a home-run pick, even if it doesn't work out. Obviously, I can give you all the [comparisons], I can sell you all you want. There's a chance it's not gonna work out, and I totally get that. But it's the right kind of risk. It's the right kind of upside pick. It's the right kind of chance at getting a special player at 27 that probably should not have been there, and only fell because of an injury." [94 WIP]
Now, taking Miller will use up a good chunk of the Phillies' allocation money in the draft, which will likely impact what they can do through the rest of it, but to that end, Fritz said:
"Frankly, just take the best player. Take the high schooler. Take the top-15 talent on the board, and if it screws the rest of the draft, I get it. But you have to go for difference makers." [94 WIP]
We'll see in a few years if they succeeded.
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