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The Red Report 2020 - Wade Miley

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Will a reunion with Derek Johnson push the newest Reds starter to another level?

Cincinnati Reds Photo Day Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Fast Facts

  • Born November 13, 1986 in Hammond, Louisiana.
  • Bats: Left; Throws: Left
  • Attended Loranger High School in Hammond, and then attended Southeastern Louisiana University also, you guessed it, in Hammond.
  • Is the only player from Loranger to make the Major Leagues, and is easily the best player to make the bigs from SLU (a list that includes former Red Tanner Rainey).
  • Has sleepy eyes.
  • Was the runner up for Rookie of the Year in 2012, losing to Bryce Harper by only seven votes.

Organizational History

  • Drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 20th round of the 2005 amateur draft (did not sign).
  • Drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round (43rd overall) in the 2008 amateur draft.
  • Debuted with the Diamondbacks on August 20, 2011.
  • Traded by the Diamondbacks to the Boston Red Sox before the 2015 season.
  • Traded by the Red Sox to the Seattle Mariners before the 2016 season.
  • Traded by the Mariners to the Orioles at the 2016 trade deadline.
  • Granted free agency after the 2017 season, signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.
  • Granted free agency after the 2018 season, signed with the Houston Astros.
  • Granted free agency after the 2019 season, signed a two year, $14 million dollar deal with the Cincinnati Reds, with a team option for a third year.

Career Stats

Scouting Report

Wade Gif-ley

Projections

Outlook

The Reds #GotThePitching last offseason, and for the most part, it worked very well. Still, they continued to, I don’t know, #GetMorePitching(?) with their acquisition of Trevor Bauer at the trade deadline in 2019.

That didn’t stop them from adding another arm to the rotation this winter.

It’s been a long time since Wade Miley finished second in Rookie of the Year voting all the way back in 2012 (which, adjusted for current year inflation was, by my calculation, 30 years ago). Still, after the those first two season, Miley didn’t really live up to his early hype (that seems like the wrong word). After posting ERA+ numbers of 122 and 109 his first two full seasons, Miley didn’t post an above average season in the metric until 2018. He’d also never really walked a lot of batters until he absolutely did, walking a MLB high 93 batters in 157.1 innings pitched with Baltimore in 2017.

That 2018 season is important for the Reds, though I’m probably putting more importance on an 80 innings pitched stretch than is logical. In that 2018 season, Wade Miley pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers. The 2018 pitching coach for the Milwaukee Brewers was Derek Johnson, who, of course, is the current Reds pitching coach. Miley suffered an oblique injury in his second start with the Brewers in 2018 and was sidelined until July 12th. In his return, he walked five Pirates.

After that, though, through 13 starts and 69.1 IP, Miley walked only 18 batters while pitching 2.60 ERA ball with DJ, with a .643 OPS against. Pretty good!

Miley moved on from the Brewers (and Johnson) to Houston, another great pitching organization (their trash can banging be damned), and had another good year, results-wise, with a 116 ERA+ in 167.1 innings pitched. The first 156 IP went really well, a 3.06 ERA stretch and .677 OPS. His last 11.1 innings pitched over five starts in September were an unmitigated disaster, where he allowed 21 earned runs and with seven walks to only six strikeouts.

Yikes.

Turns out, Miley was tipping his pitches, as was pointed out to him by a former teammate. It was an absolutely devastating collapse for Miley, one that saw him shut out of Houston’s Championship Series and World Series rotation.

It’s something the Cincinnati staff should be able to fix. And Miley brings in at least on particularly valuable trait, considering where he’ll be pitching the majority of his innings. His groundball percentage ranked in the top 13 of all Major League pitchers, minimum 160 innings pitched (49.7%), and it’s right in line with his career average. Keeping the ball on the ground is pretty obviously valuable in Great American Ball Park.

He’s not a strikeout artist by any stretch, and never has been. His fastball velocity and strikeout rate rank very low. Without the Ks, he has to live on limiting hard contact which he does very well. Despite that, he ranked in the bottom 27 of all pitchers in HR/FB%, settling right in with Tanner Roark and Trevor Bauer.

He’s a lot like Tanner Roark, really. Roark actually struck out more batters per nine (and walked less), but was far less adept at limiting home runs, mostly because Roark’s groundball percentage was far less, despite both of their HR/FB percentages being nearly identical.

Tanner Roark production probably isn’t the best case scenario for the Reds, but it’s certainly not the worst. There’s reason to believe that a reunion with Derek Johnson isn’t going to cure Wade Miley, if he even really needs curing. But his signing isn’t really the key for the 2020 Reds. Yes, if he’s great, this rotation enters another level. If he’s bad, it’s a concern from 2021, but Tyler Mahle is waiting right there to try and prove himself again. Wade Miley is supposed to be the floor for the fourth or fifth starter.