Prospect of the Day: Tom Milone, LHP, Oakland Athletics
Oakland Athletics rookie lefty Tom Milone made his American League debut against the Kansas City Royals Monday night, throwing eight shutout innings. Acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez deal, Milone is one of the more intriguing tenderfoots in the majors this year, having exceeded the expectations of scouts to get where he is now. Can he stay there?
Milone was drafted by the Nationals in the 10th round in 2008 from the University of Southern California. He was successful in college but his lack of a plus fastball limited his draft stock. He had a strong year in 2009, going 12-5, 2.91 ERA with a 106/36 K/BB in 151 innings for High-A Potomac in the Carolina League. Scouts were skeptical, wondering if he could do this in Double-A. He did in 2010, going 12-5 again, this time with a 2.85 ERA and a 155/23 K/BB in 158 innings. He pushed aside more doubts with a 12-6, 3.32 ERA and a 155/16 K/BB in 148 innings in Triple-A last year, then held his own in five late-season starts, posting a 3.81 ERA and a 15/4 K/BB in 26 innings in the majors.
Did the Nationals sell high here? Milone's velocity is unimpressive, in the mid-to-high-80s, but his K/IP ratios have actually improved every season. (Ironically, given this observation, he didn't strike out anyone last night). His best pitch is his changeup, but he's refined his curveball considerably since college. His delivery has a touch of funk that adds deception to his pitches. His command and control have always been remarkable, and so far he has yet to face a group of hitters that he can't get out.
Fastball or no, Milone knows how to pitch. While his margin for error will never be great, his performance record is unassailable. He has nothing left to prove in the minors, and at some point results are more important than radar readings. If he stays healthy and has a competent defense behind him, Milone should continue to exceed expectations.