JUPITER, Fla.—The first time Shannon Snyder saw Mitchell Miller was from across the diamond.
Snyder, head coach of the Chain Baseball Columbus travel team out of Georgia, immediately liked what he saw—a big, young lefty on the mound, with plenty of room left to grow in all areas of his game. He had to have him.
“He threw against us in the fall about three years ago,” Snyder said during USA Baseball’s 17U National Team East championships. “Obviously looking across at a 14-year-old who was already 6-foot-3, it was a little eye candy for another coach.
“I said, ‘Look, we need to get with his parents and see what we can do about getting him in our program.’ We saw his arm action and it was pretty much a no-brainer after that.”
Since that time, Miller has added a few inches and pounds, and has evolved into a more well-rounded pitcher, throwing two-seam and four-seam fastballs, a curve, a cutter that was just introduced to his repertoire at the beginning of his season at Loganville High School, and a changeup that he says is still a work in progress.
“The cutter I just started throwing at the beginning of this year,” the 17-year-old said. “During the beginning of the season it wasn’t very good, but it’s pretty dirty now … I have one of the best pitching coaches in the state (in Brandon Anglin) so he’s helped me with everything I do … but my changeup still needs work.”
“He’s been up to 88 and 89,” Snyder said. “He’s going to sit around 85-87. He’s got good feel and touch for his off-speed pitches. He comes from the best high school program in the state of Georgia and they make my job easy.”
Since Miller joined the Chain Baseball squad, Snyder has seen continuous maturation, and has been most impressed by the improvements the southpaw has made in his mental game.
“I’ve seen him mature over the past three years, more mentally than physically, because the physical tools are there,” Snyder said. “He’s a 6-foot-5 lefty and in 18 years of doing this, I’ve been blessed to have a lot of good lefties and some guys are in the big leagues through our program … and (Miller’s) upside is just as good as theirs was at that age.”
Over time, Miller has gained a better understanding of what he can control on the field when he’s out there, helping him to keep a level head on the hill.
“I don’t really let people’s errors get to me,” the lefty said. “I had three errors behind me (Thursday) but I picked them up when we got in the dugout and tried not to make my teammates feel bad. No damage was done.”
Nothing fazes Miller anymore, including the many scouts and recruiters who have come to see the young hurler throw. He was helped early in his high school career by 2013’s fifth-overall draft pick Clint Frazier, who drew enough attention to make any player nervous. Miller got used to it before he earned the chance to step into the spotlight.
“In my eighth grade year we had Clint, and I was the manager,” the teenager said. “I practiced with the team and I was the manager, so I saw the whole experience (he had). Then in my freshman year I pitched in the state playoffs. There were about 100 scouts there to watch Clint, so I’ve gotten used to the atmosphere.”
Despite being more relaxed on the mound, Snyder still sees plenty of excitement out of his pitcher, always a good thing but sometimes requiring in-game adjustments.
“He’s young,” Snyder said. “He gets a little amped up sometimes and we have to amp him down, which is good. You can always amp them down and you can’t really amp them up. It’s really good when you have to do that.
“And he’s a great teammate, even when he’s on the bench. He’s into every pitch of every game and that means a lot in our program … He’s one of those grinder guys who gets after it every day.”
Committed to Mississippi State, Miller is looking forward to the chance to play in front of large crowds and have all eyes on him.
“When I got to Mississippi State, it just felt different than any other school that I went to; it just felt like home,” he said. “They average (around) 12,000 fans a game and that’s pretty cool. I want to play in front of that.”
But there’s always a chance he could go pro, too.
“I look at it this way,” Miller said. “If I’m not in the first three rounds I’m probably going to go to college, get stronger, throw hard, and give myself a better shot.”
The young pitcher has seen firsthand the importance of his post-secondary decision, watching his brother Christian go the professional route after the San Diego Padres selected him in the 19th round just two summers ago. After posting inflated numbers over short stints in rookie ball and the Northwest League, Christian was released.
“He doesn’t really give me a lot of advice on pro ball,” the younger Miller said. “He’s pretty much said the same thing that I did for me—if I’m not in the first three rounds, I should go to college. He wishes he would have gone to college now.”
No matter his eventual decision, Snyder sees big things for his big lefty.
“His future is what he wants to make it,” the coach said. “With the guys we’ve had in our programs, like the Adam Wainwright types and those guys, he ranks right up there with them at that age.”