Mind you, Burch Smith and Alec Mills were never can’t-miss prospects, but both have always promised potential to fill out a rotation or be a bullpen piece on their worst day.
At their best and most promising, Smith and Mills could have filled out a major league rotation. That can still happen but Smith —who will be 28 in April— and Mills —about to turn 26— aren’t exactly spring chickens anymore.
Segueing from spring to fall, both of their organizations —the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs respectively— still saw plenty in these veteran prospects to extend them an Arizona Fall League invitation.
Smith, acquired from the San Diego Padres in the Wil Myers-Trea Turner-Steven Souza blockbuster of 2014, pitched well for the Peoria Javelinas in the recently concluded Arizona Fall League.
In 20.1 innings, the San Antonio, Texas native exhibited his calling card tallying up 29 strikeouts (career K/9 of 9.6.) He allowed just 12 hits without surrendering a single walk (1.13 WHIP) and will look to find a permanent home in 2018. He last pitched with the Padres in 2013 but missed all of ‘15 and ‘16 with injuries.
Mills, originally a 22nd round pick by the Kansas City Royals back in 2012 out of the University of Tennessee, was traded in February of this year to the Cubs for 2015 second rounder Donnie Dewees.
Mills actually reached the MLB in 2016 with K.C. and looked ready to build on that with the Cubs in 2017 before the injury bug bit him once more this season, cutting it short to just 28 innings.
Wearing a Mesa Solar Sox jersey (what a great name) in the AZL, Mills continued his regular season progress post-injury. He tossed 23 innings with a 3.91 ERA and 1.39 WHIP, striking out 20 and walking six.
Like Smith, he started all six of his appearances and will look to build on this strong, healthy fall and be a part of the Cubs’ major league situation in the upcoming 2018 season.