According to a report from Martin Gallegos of MLB.com, the Oakland Athletics are planning on keeping top prospect Mason Miller in a bullpen role in 2024.
The move is designed with Miller's health in mind. Miller missed about four months of the 2023 season due to a forearm injury, eventually diagnosed as a UCL sprain.
After coming dangerously close to needing Tommy John surgery, Miller rehabbed and came back to Oakland with a handful of strong appearances in September to close out the season. He finished 2023 with a 3.78 ERA and a 27.3% strikeout rate.
Miller did struggle a bit with control, walking 16 batters in 33.1 innings. However, he did well limiting hard contact, and he only allowed 2 home runs during his time in the majors.
His status was a bit up in the air coming into the offseason, as fans were unsure whether Miller would be used in the rotation or out of the bullpen. He started two of the six games he pitched in during the month of September, after working primarily as a starter prior to the injury.
Miller has certainly earned his prospect pedigree. He has a fastball with elite velocity, sitting 98 and touching triple digits. He pairs the four-seamer with a wipeout slider, a cutter, and a changeup.
According to Statcast data, he primarily uses the four-seam and slider against righties. Against lefties, he swaps the slider out for the cutter and changeup. Statcast shows that he threw 30 changeups at the MLB level in 2023. Batters swung and missed at the pitch 43% of the time and he didn't allow a single hit while throwing it.
Miller's skill set profiles as a potential elite relief pitcher, and he certainly has the talent to excel in the bullpen. However, Gallegos' tweet mentions that the A's are considering using him in the closer role.
Given the fact that Miller can get both righties and lefties out, in addition to the fact that the A's are unlikely to win a bunch of games next year, it would seem most beneficial to use him as a fireman. He has the capacity to throw more than an inning at a time, and his lack of platoon splits is a major advantage for Mark Kotsay and the A's.
If the team wants to get the most out of Miller's talent, they need to deploy him as a high-leverage reliever, regardless of the situation. Whether they pigeonhole him into a specific role, or allow his talent to pitch in the biggest situations, we'll have to wait and see.