Bobby Miller. Certified awesome. So far living up to the "ace" billing that followed him the night he was drafted. There's no better pitcher in the Los Angeles Dodgers starting rotation at the moment.
That will, of course, change, however. There will probably be a brief adjustment period when more teams have film on him. He's got to face the Phillies, Giants and Astros in his next three starts if he remains with the team, and that won't be an easy stretch.
Or, you know what? Maybe he won't slow down. He looks pretty damn good. Last year he struck out Shohei Ohtani on a 100 MPH fastball in spring training. We were warned 25 months ago.
But there is one thing that could eventually get to Miller that's not necessarily within his control: fatigue. He's thrown just 210 innings since becoming a pro in 2021 (averaging 89 per season from 2021-2022). Dating back to 2018, that number jumps up to 396. In theory, if he's on his way to becoming an ace, he should eclipse 200 innings in a full season given expectations for that role, which would equate to half of his total workload over the last five-plus years.
His career high in innings pitched came in 2022 when he logged 112.1 between Double-A and Triple-A. The most before that? 80, back in 2019 at Louisville.
Will fatigue slow Bobby Miller down with the Dodgers in 2023?
Luckily in the early going, Miller's been good for just 31.1 innings in his first seven outings between Triple-A and the Bigs. He's got four-plus months ahead of him, though, which could take him into jeopardizing territory for fatigue.
Don't think this is a legitimate concern? Look no further than what happened to both Julio Urías and Walker Buehler, from whom Miller is drawing tons of comparisons, back in 2021. Despite multiple MLB seasons under their belt, the two starters eclipsed their previous career highs in innings pitched by 116.2 for Urías and 30 for Buehler. The result? Both fell apart after they got shelled in the NLCS, clearly a result of overuse (and Braves' devil magic). Buehler later succumbed to his second Tommy John surgery after 12 problematic starts in 2022.
You have to think the shortened 2020, which featured just 61.2 innings, played a role in all that for Buehler, since that was sandwiched in between his two largest outputs. Then again, Buehler did only log 109.2 minor-league innings in just over two seasons (2016-2018) before firing off 137.1 with the big-league club in 2018. So you just never know. But his 253.2 college innings dwarfs Miller's 170.
The point remains, however, that fatigue comes for almost every player, but especially young pitchers still trying to build up their arm strength and handle a different kind of high-leverage outing every five days.
Miller appears to be an absolute freak that could overcome that, but risking that isn't worth it. Hopefully the Dodgers have a shrewd plan to manage his innings so they can get the most out of him rather than succumbing to an unpleasant conclusion to 2023.