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Diamondbacks Report Card: Wade Miley

Wade Miley report card

Name: Wade Miley
Age on Opening Day: 24
Salary: $414,000
2011 MLB stats: 8 games, 40.0 IP, 4.50 ERA, 4-2, 25:18 K:BB
2010 MLB stats: N/A

Drafted in the sandwich round in 2008, rookie lefty Wade Miley made an effective debut in 2011 as the Diamondbacks' 5th starter down the stretch. While not possessing the same top of rotation upside as some of the other Diamondbacks pitching prospects, Miley rode a low-90s fastball and ground balls to a 4-2 record with a 4.50 ERA through 7 Major League starts and one relief appearance.

Wade Miley was drafted 43rd overall out of Southeastern Louisiana University in the 2008 Rule 4 amateur player draft after being selected an All-Star in the Cape Cod summer league in 2007 and First Team All-Southland Conference as a junior in 2008. His junior year, he pitched 4 complete games and went 7-3 with a 3.90 ERA, notching up a strikeout rate of 10.6 per 9 innings pitched.

After 100+ IP in college in 2008, the Louisiana native tossed just 11 innings, all in relief, for the Yakima Bears in 2008. He combined for a 4.20 ERA over 128 IP in 2009, 113 of which were at South Bend. Starting 2010 in hitter-friendly Visalia, Miley posted a 3.25 ERA despite a K:BB ratio of just 1.35 (2.97 in 2008 and 2009 professionally) and a WHIP of 1.469. Following a promotion to AA Mobile mid-2010, Miley began a two-year trend of pitching better in the second half -- his 1.98 ERA over 72 innings was impressive, even in the pitcher-friendly environment of the Southern League. Among balls in play, Miley generated 2.64 ground balls per every fly ball. It was with some surprise, then, that he was reassigned to Mobile to start 2011. Thanks to a sore shoulder that haunted him in Spring Training and early in the season, Miley spent time on the DL and his ERA ballooned to below league-average at 4.78 over 75 innings. Despite this, the Diamondbacks promoted him to AAA Reno on July 1st of this year and he rewarded the team with a 3.64 ERA and a K:BB ratio of 3.50, the best of his career in pro ball. Incidentally, his 54 innings in the PCL included a start against the Tucson Padres, with several Snakepitters present (including yours truly).

After an unfortunate injury ended Jason Marquis' Diamondbacks career after just 2+ starts, coinciding with Miley's impressive 3-hit 4-1 win against New Orleans on August 13th, on August 16th, the Dbacks called Miley up. The news had actually been broken a couple of days earlier by Miley's college coach via Twitter.

Miley joined reliever Ryan Cook, outfielder Collin Cowgill, and reliever Bryan Shaw among 2008 draft picks making their debuts this season. Harnessing a high-80s, low-90s fastball that occasionally touches 95, the lefty also uses a slider, a changeup, a curve and a cut fastball. Should everything go right, Miley probably projects as a 4th starter or a 3rd at best if he can refine his command further.

After getting lit up to the tune of 5 earned runs over 4 innings in Atlanta in his MLB debut (though with 5 strikeouts), Miley got his first win as a major leaguer on August 25th in DC against the Nats, throwing 6 shutout innings despite giving up 5 hits and walking 4 (against 4 strikeouts), along with 2 steals -- slightly odd for a LHP. The 98 pitch outing earned him a game score of 62, his highest in the majors this year.

Wade followed it up with another fine outing against the Rockies, his first at Chase. Going 6 innings, he held Colorado to 2 runs despite 9 hits and a walk, compared to 3 Ks. He did himself one better IN Colorado on September 5th in pitching 7 innings with two runs yielded, both solo homers, to Dexter Fowler and Mark Ellis. Wade set MLB season highs in that game for both innings pitched and strikeouts, with 6, The Diamondbacks finished with a 10-7 victory, despite giving up 5 runs in the 8th and 9th. He also induced his first major league double play in this game, and his 60 game score was the second highest of his season. It was arguably his best outing for the Dbacks, and his season ERA peaked at 3.52 after the game.

His next start, against the Padres at Chase on September 10th, was not quite as sharp. Giving up 8 hits and 4 walks through 5 innings, Miley gave up 5 runs, 3 in the 5th inning, including a home run to James Darnell. Can't entirely say that we weren't warned, given that Dan said that

One red flag that has been raised has been that there is some meltdown potential in the southpaw, as he has occasionally gotten rattled on the mound, losing his mound presence, composure, and mechanics. When that happens, things can go south in a hurry.

The Diamondbacks still won the game 6-5, though Miley snapped his personal three game win streak and posted a season-worst 1:4 K:BB ratio. He posted his lowest game score of the year with a 28. He followed it up, though, with a better outing against the same team at Petco, though got tagged with a 2-0 loss against fellow lefty Tim Stauffer, pitching 6 innings and giving up 3 walks and 5 hits while striking out 3.

On September 21st, Miley pitched his final start of the season against the Pirates, going for 2 runs over 5 innings while striking out 3 and walking only 1, giving up 5 hits in the process, one a home run to Ryan Ludwick. Miley still earned the win, though. His last appearance of the season came as a relief inning against the Dodgers on September 28th, wherein he gave up two runs and Matt Kemp's 39th home run of the season -- not that there's any shame in that.

For the season, Wade Miley struck out 13.9% of his batters faced, and walked 10%. If he was slightly unlucky with opponents getting a .321 BABIP against him, he was also lucky to strand 79.9% of baserunners on the bags. A final season ERA of 4.50 slightly outperformed his 5.08 FIP, with B-R awarding him a final ERA+ of 88. True to form, he generated a rate of 1.54 ground balls per each fly ball. As for value, B-R reckoned he was worth 0.3 wins above replacement, while FanGraphs gave him 0.1 WAR.

Good season for Miley? That depends on expectations. A final Major League record of 4-2 with a 4.50 ERA are pretty damned decent for a 5th starter, and if he can replicate that 4.50 next season, I'd say we'll have no problem tolerating that from our #5 guy, after Kennedy, Hudson, Cahill and Collmenter. Plenty of teams would be jealous to have a decent lefty who can give you that kind of production. I think, if he avoids injury and starts the season in the rotation, an ERA of 4.00-4.25 over 180 or so IP is possible, with a ceiling around 3.80. We'll want him to keep rolling up ground balls, though, and a strikeout to walk rate of 1.39 needs to improve. I'm slightly less concerned with the 5.6 Ks per 9 innings than the 4.1 walks per 9; a guy like Miley can't afford to walk over 4 batters per 9 innings pitched.

Overall grade? For a 5th starter, probably a B+ or so. Overall grade as a starting pitcher? Call him a C or C-, though this actually seems somewhat unfair.