Prospect of the Day: Tom Milone, LHP, Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals have an interesting pitcher at Triple-A Syracuse: left-hander Tom Milone. He doesn't show up on top prospect lists, but he has exceptional command and has ridden this skill to the cusp of the major leagues.
Milone had a fine junior year for the University of Southern California in 2008, with a 3.51 ERA in 14 starts and a 98/20 K/BB in 97 innings. He was drafted in the 10th round, then proceeded to have strong minor league seasons in 2009 (12-5, 2.91 ERA, 106/36 K/BB in 151 IP for High-A Potomac) and 2010 (12-5, 2.85 ERA, 155/23 K/BB in 158 IP for Double-A Harrisburg). Note the strong spike in his strikeout rate as he moved to Double-A.
Promoted to Triple-A this year, he has a 3.81 ERA with a stunning 82/5 K/BB in 76 innings with 77 hits allowed. His ERA is actually misleading; his FIP is much better at 2.25. He now has a career 3.12 ERA with a 392/73 K/BB in 444 innings in the minors. His component ratios are actually improving as he moves up: his K/9 has increased from 6.3 in '09, to 8.8 in '10, to 9.8 this year. His BB/9 has dropped from 2.1 to a miniscule 0.6 in that time.
Milone doesn't show up on hot prospect lists because he doesn't throw hard: his fastball is just in the 85-87 range, hitting 88-89 on his very best days. Despite the lack of velocity, the fastball is an effective pitch for him due to the contrast with his plus-quality changeup, a good cutter, and a solid-to-above-average curve. His command is obviously terrific, he has mound presence, and a consistent habit of exceeding the expectations of scouts.
Although his margin for error will never be great, Milone is a very intriguing prospect with an excellent statistical resume. The fact that he keeps improving when exposed to better competition is a good sign for his future.