Committed To Pitching

Dodgers' top pick Aaron Miller's two-way days are over

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LOS ANGELES—The Dodgers, who because of their offseason signing of free agent second baseman Orlando Hudson didn't get to make a pick until the supplemental first round of the draft, used that 36th overall pick to select lefthander Aaron Miller, a Baylor junior.
The Dodgers didn't have a first-rounder but still went for high-end talent. LHP/OF Aaron Miller (supplemental first round) and OF/RHP Blake Smith (second) both have early-round talent both ways; Miller went as a pitcher, Smith as an outfielder. There was talk that RHP Garrett Gould could move into the first round, but he fell to the second, a bonus for the Dodgers. They also took plenty of tough signs, such as 3B Richie Shaffer (25th) and LHPs Alex McRee (26th) and Brian Johnson (27).

At first glance, Miller's numbers won't make your eyes pop out. He went 3-3, 5.12 this season in 13 appearances, only six of which were starts. But Dodgers assistant general manager Logan White, who oversees the draft for the club, says those last two figures are more important than the first two.

"He had a (high) ERA, but I don't worry about that because it was just (due to) a lack of pitching," White said. "His first two years, he really just concentrated on hitting, so he hasn't (pitched) much—and trying to get used to that routine is tough."

Miller was primarily an outfielder for the Bears, batting .301 with 28 homers and 127 RBIs for his career. But Dodgers scouts—starting with area scout Chris Smith, who had been watching Miller since his days at Channelview (Texas) High—were more intrigued by what they saw of his pitching ability.

"This kid was definitely a prospect as a hitter," White said. "But we think he has so much potential on the mound. His fastball is 90-94 (mph), he has a hard curveball that he throws 78-83, and he has a good changeup.

"He just hasn't had the opportunity to pitch consistently. We think once he gets with our development staff and gets consistent, he'll take off."

White said Miller is in agreement that his future is on the mound.

"He understands his potential," White said. "He flew out to our workout on his own dime, and we spent a lot of time talking to him there. We wanted to make sure this was what he wanted to do. Because if it wasn't, it wouldn't be successful."


• The Dodgers had two second-round picks at Nos. 56 and 65, one of which was compensation for losing Derek Lowe. They used the first one on California outfielder Blake Smith, whose raw power is such that he almost hit a ball out of Dodger Stadium during a pre-draft workout. They used the latter on Maize, Kan., high schooler Garrett Gould, a righthander whom White said might be difficult to sign for slot money because he has a scholarship in hand from his hometown school, Wichita State.

• The Dodgers used their third-round pick (96th overall) to add a third member of the Wallach family to the organization. Righthander Brett Wallach, the son of Triple-A Albuquerque manager Tim and brother of catching prospect Matt, was a juco sophomore at Orange Coast College and is said to have a potentially dominating sinker.