By now, you’ve surely heard of Tom Milone, the Nats pitching prospect that is often referred to as “fascinating” or something like that. He’s a 24 year old lefty starter who’s been very impressive the last few years. In 2009, he had a 2.91 ERA in high-A ball, at age 22. Last year, in AA at age 23, he had a 2.85 ERA; but in about 7 more IP than 2009, he had 49 more Ks and 13 fewer BBs. So his K/9 jumped from 6.3 to 8.8, and his K/BB went from 2.94 to 6.74. This year, his ERA has been a little higher, currently sitting at 3.81, and his K/9 has gone up a bit to 9.8. But what’s finally getting people’s attention is his current (and, sure, unsustainable) K/BB rate of 16.40. In 75 2/3 IP, he has issued 5 walks.
That’s where John Sickels comes in. He writes for SBNation (where Rob Neyer now lives) and today put out the first Tom Milone article I’ve ever seen from a nationwide (not a Nationals-focus) source. He goes through some of those stats that I listed above, which I’ve talked about ad nauseum (and will continue to do so), but he does add this little nugget
His ERA is actually misleading; his FIP is much better at 2.25.
So that shows that maybe he’s succeeding even more in AAA than it appears. Of course the reason that people don’t talk more about Milone, as many of you know, is his complete lack of fastball velocity. There isn’t much more than that, nobody would poo poo a guy who strikes out a hitter an inning but doesn’t have a great secondary pitch, it’s all about the fastball. Sickels, though, doesn’t really seem to think that makes him fringy, just a bit risky. Here’s what he says:
Milone doesn’t show up on hot prospect lists because he doesn’t throw hard: his fastball is just in the 85-87 range, hitting 88-89 on his very best days. Despite the lack of velocity, the fastball is an effective pitch for him due to the contrast with his plus-quality changeup, a good cutter, and a solid-to-above-average curve. His command is obviously terrific, he has mound presence, and a consistent habit of exceeding the expectations of scouts.
So there you go, more insight into how Milone pitches (as opposed to those stats, which really show us what he did) than I’ve seen before. Although I’ve always assumed he’s all about command, it’s nice to hear some of that confirmed. Of course, true to form when anyone talks about Milone, Sickels terms him an “intriguing” prospect. He says that Milone’s success as he has moved up is a good sign for the future.
The Nationals starting rotation has been very good this year, and has been unusually healthy. It makes you wonder, though, if Milone continues to pitch in AAA this well, how long will it be before the Nats decide to give him a chance to start in the majors. My bet is that he may be on the short list of “next guys up”, but they aren’t in a rush to move him to the majors just yet.