San Diego Padres’ prospect Owen Miller has developed in his first year of professional baseball. The infielder is currently playing well in Amarillo and sits down with East Village Times to discuss minor league life.
Owen Miller, a third-round pick out of Illinois State last year, has flown through the San Diego Padres’ system thus far, hitting at least .300 at every level. Miller has proven his durability at the shortstop position as he never missed an inning in college while playing excellent defense for the Redbirds.
The infielder’s play style is reminiscent of one of the hottest baseball players on the planet this year, Yankees’ second baseman DJ LeMahieu. Miller is a hit-for-average bat, with not a lot of power. Now and then, he will send one into the seats, though. He is also clutch with the stick and often abuses Texas League pitching. Miller does all this while playing plus defense around the infield diamond, including second base.
The right-handed hitter has a line drive approach at the plate. He generally makes contact. “With a guy like him you don’t want to get too crazy about messing with his swing,” Amarillo hitting coach Raul Padron said of Miller, “His swing works and it’s my job to help keep it simple and treat every pitch equally, Padron said. If you watch an Owen Miller at-bat, you will notice that his eye at the plate is more mature than that of a usual player that just surpassed his first year in professional baseball. “What makes Owen standout is his eye and his self-confidence. It doesn’t matter the situation he always puts a good swing on it,” Padron said.
The Sod Poodles hitting coach isn’t the only member of the coaching staff that has noticed Miller’s talent. Amarillo manager Phillip Wellman called him the “best hitter on the team” after spending the entirety of this year and the playoff push last year with the shortstop.
EVT: What did you learn from your time at Illinois State that has helped your professional career so far? Any thoughts about going back for your senior season?
OM: Not really. I knew that I had a lot of interest from teams but going into the draft last year. I was excited to kind of be done with the process and move on to my professional baseball career. I thought that I was ready. At Illinois State, I was able to really develop as a player, get a lot stronger, especially in the weight room in the offseason and just play. I played every single game, every inning, and I was able to become a better hitter, fielder. It really helped me develop every aspect of my game.
EVT: You participate in collegiate summer leagues; how did that help you going forward in professional baseball?
OM: It absolutely helped. I played in the Northwoods League for two summers, and that schedule is pretty comparable to the minor league schedule. We have a lot of travel, play a lot of games, usually got home late at night. Especially the wood bat aspect of it is big and playing more helps you progress and get better.
EVT: Do you still keep in touch with Paul Dejong?
OM: Yeah, I do. I never played with Paul. He got drafted the year before I came in, but we have the same agent. I was with him a little bit in the offseason, but he’s a great guy, and an awesome guy to take advice from. He’s someone who is having success at the highest level, so that’s always a good guy to talk to.
EVT: Growing up did you have a professional that you looked at and tried to model your game after?
OM: Not really, but I always liked to look at guys that played the game the right way. Preferably, infielders because that’s where I played. I always enjoyed watching guys like Chase Utley and Dustin Pedroia because they weren’t the biggest guys in the world or the fastest or strongest, but they knew how to hit. They knew how to play, and that’s why they were and are in this game for such a long time.
EVT: You were drafted one year ago on the fifth of June. With the draft happening as we speak, is there any advice you could give to your new affiliate mates?
OM: It sounds cliche but keep working hard. Show up to the ballpark with a positive attitude every day, and believe in what got you drafted and remember what got you here worked so far. You were obviously doing something right and don’t fall apart from that, but it is time to get going. It is cool to get drafted and as far as celebrating you should celebrate a little bit because it is a big achievement, but once you show up to Arizona or where ever you start you have to start performing and do what you were drafted to do.
EVT: You’ve hit more line drives and gone opposite field more than ever this year. Any change in approach in the off-season? Or is it if it isn’t broke don’t fix it type thing?
OM: Going into my junior year of college, I decided if I can use the whole field and work the middle a lot, I could have a lot more success. Being able to hit the baseball without striking out is always a big thing I’ve been trying to work on. Obviously with faster pitching now and guys throwing a little harder I’m able to use the right field a little bit more to open more opportunities
EVT: You get called up to Double-A San Antonio last year for the playoff push. What was that like, and what was the biggest takeaway?
OM: That was awesome because at the time you don’t realize that not too many people get to go up and play in Double-A in their first season. It was an unbelievable experience, and I can’t thank the Padres enough for letting me do that. It was cool to play in meaningful games with a lot of good players. It was a blast when we came back to beat Corpus in game five and got to celebrate. That was my first experience with that, but the experience as a whole was awesome, and I’m glad it all worked out.
EVT: What has been your impression of the Texas League so far?
OM: It’s been good so far, and there’s definitely a lot of good competition and a lot of good players. I noticed that there aren’t very many teams, so you start seeing guys a lot and picking up on tendencies of different hitters while you’re on defense. You face the same pitchers a lot, so I think a big thing is figuring out what guys are trying to do to you.
EVT: First time we ever spoke, you told me you had to stay away from the rollercoaster mindset that baseball can sometimes give people. What is the best advice you’ve been given, not about the physical but the mental of this game?
OM: Honestly, you have to go through the game and sometimes just have to shake days off. When you play every day, and you go through a full season, there’s just a lot of things that can happen. Guys can make great plays on you; maybe the umpires don’t make great calls and rain delays where you are waiting around and end up playing late. There’s just so much that can happen and kind of suck. So it is extremely important to have move on and have a short term memory.
EVT: Two months in. How has the Amarillo experience been so far this year?
OM: It’s been great. A lot of people come out to support us, and they really seem to love the baseball here. Playing here at night is definitely cool we get an awesome atmosphere. Really couldn’t be happier.