Alec Mills has stepped into the Cubs rotation nicely this year. As he was never a top ranked prospect, pundits were always questioning whether he could stick it out at the big league level. Today, I'd like to look at the numbers and see if we can figure out what the upside for Mills is. Is he a spot starter? or can he stick it at the Major League level? After pitching a no hitter on Sunday September 13th, we are super excited to see the future for Mills!
Alec Mills played a few seasons in college, before being drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 2012. he slowly worked his way up through the system, and made his debut in 2016. It didn't go well. Mills was designated for assignment in a roster crunch in February 2017, and subsequently traded to the Cubs.
Since then, he's played mainly at the AAA level. He's got a AAA ERA of 4.73, but an overall minor league ERA of 3.69. MLB ERA is a respectable 4.19. Here are the raw numbers:
Mills's numbers aren't great above AA. His AAA era of 4.73 is actually worse than his MLB era of 4.19. He was good in the lower minors, but has struggled a bit against the tougher competition.
Mills walks about 3 hitters per 9 at the upper levels. His strikeouts flex around 8-9 per 9. Hits per 9 were close to 10 in the minors, but are down to 7.5 in the bigs.
Mills's homer rate took a big jump in the major leagues, going from .7 to 1.2. Even though he's cut his WHIP, he's also been able to keep the ERA down a bit from his rough AAA numbers so far.
I question whether Mills can stick in the big leagues long term. The concerning AAA numbers make me think that MLB teams will eventually scout him out and hit him hard. But he's already got over 25 appearances in the show, so you'd think that teams would be figuring him out right about now. Instead he seems to be improving.
So maybe he's learned to pitch and developed through the failures at AAA. His WHIP is respectable. The 7.5 hits per 9 is low enough to be respectable, and coupled with a decent strikeout rate he is clearing missing enough bats to make it work. I'm not sure he'll ever be great, but I think he can be a steady arm at the bottom of the rotation. I'll take it. Plus, we now know he has no hit stuff. He's certainly capable of being a good starting pitcher.