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Tyson Miller Forces Hitters' Hands

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The Cubs understand the attrition rates with pitchers and the probabilities of taking one from the draft and getting him all the way to Wrigley Field.

That’s why Theo Epstein’s baseball operations department has taken a volume approach in the draft over the years. By also investing in cutting-edge technology and ramping up staffing, the organization hopes to finally develop that homegrown starter.

Righthander Tyson Miller may be the one emerging out of that cluster of pitching prospects in the upper levels of the system. The 23-year-old recorded a 1.17 ERA through eight starts at Double-A Tennessee.

"He’s really pounding lefties in with a hard cutter and slider,” Epstein said. "He’s really able to get off the barrel consistently. Everything kind of comes out of the same slot. His fastball, his cutter and his breaking ball all look pretty similar coming out.

"He’s sort of forcing hitters’ hands by pounding the strike zone with that good mix with movement. He’s getting a lot of soft contact.”

The Cubs noticed how Miller sustained his velocity and finished strong last year at high Class A Myrtle Beach, where he went 9-9, 3.54 in 23 starts. Pitching off his fastball, Miller notched 126 strikeouts against 35 walks in 127 innings.

In his first exposure to Double-A, Miller had walked just eight in 46 innings while recording a 0.76 WHIP.

Miller, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound righthander, played Division II ball at California Baptist and showed enough potential to get drafted in the fourth round in 2016. He might be on the verge of a major breakthrough.

"He’s a bigger kid kind of growing into his body,” Epstein said. "He kind of goes overlooked, but he’s always thrown a ton of innings. Knock on wood—never been hurt. He always takes the ball.

"He’s really coming on and starting to figure it out. He’s done a nice job. You can’t pitch much better than he has. He goes deep in games. He's efficient. He does a real nice job of limiting hard contact.”

CUBBYHOLE

— Double-A Tennessee shortstop Nico Hoerner went on the injured list in May with a hairline fracture in his left wrist. He had been sidelined since getting hit by a pitch on April 23. A CT scan revealed a fracture where his forearm meets his hand near the wrist. "He’s going to be in a splint for three weeks and then get out of it," Epstein said, "and (we'll) evaluate him from there. But he’ll be out at least a month, obviously, with this.”

— The Cubs are hoping to finally get an extended look at righthander Adbert Alzolay in the Triple-A Iowa rotation and see if he could possibly help the big league team at some point this season. He was shut down with a strained lat muscle last season, and felt something on his right side again during a bullpen session leading into spring training.

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