Jacob Miller was in the eighth grade when he dunked a basketball for the first time. He was 5-foot-11, 150 pounds at the time.
The previous year, he was hanging on the rim in gym class when his middle school track coach walked in and saw Miller.
“You’re going to be on our track team,” the coach said. “You’re going to do the high jump.”
Miller’s response: “What’s the high jump?”
A lot has changed since then. The 19-year-old righthander was the Marlins’ second-round pick last year out of high school near Columbus, Ohio.
But his background in the high jump and the leaping ability required for his brief fling at basketball have endured.
“The explosiveness I developed in my lower half translates on the mound,” Miller said. “It’s given me that explosion as I push off my back leg.”
Miller also played some football until the eighth grade.
“The injury risk was too great in football,” Miller said. “I was a freshman, and I would’ve been chased by 250-pound seniors.”
Miller, who now checks in at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, was Ohio’s Gatorade Player of the Year for baseball in 2022. Through six starts for Low-A Jupiter this season, he logged a 5.00 ERA with 24 strikeouts and 10 walks in 27 innings.
“He has arrived as advertised with athleticism and strike-throwing ability,” Marlins scouting director DJ Svihlik said. “His fastball fits comfortably at 92-94 (mph). He has a plus curve and an occasionally plus changeup.”
Miller can dominate with that curve, and his fastball has reached 97. He also has a tight slider, but he admits that consistency with the fade on his changeup is his biggest goal.
“I love it,” Miller said of his progress. “Every day I show up is a blast.”
Miller said he had never experienced failure until he got to pro ball, where he quickly needed to learn how to change eye levels, work both sides of the plate and pitch backward at times.
“Failure sucks, but I’m mentally strong,” Miller said. “I’m a completely different pitcher now from when I signed. I’m more mechanically sound and in sync.”