FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s been a long and eventful year-plus for Red Sox minor leaguer Tyler Miller, one that dates to the fall of 2020 when he was a junior at Auburn University, gearing up for what would be his final season as a college athlete.
Miller hit .313/.354/.601 with a .955 OPS and a team-leading 16 homers, which led to first-team All-Southeast Region honors. More importantly, it was enough for the Red Sox to pluck him in the ninth round of the major league draft.
After the draft, he continued in the Florida Complex League and Low Class A Salem, where Miller hit .327/.409/.525 with three homers and a .933 OPS in 115 plate appearances.
Fast forward to December, and as the holidays inched closer, Miller was still in a season of his own. He was once again back at the Sox’ spring training complex in Florida where several of the Red Sox’ minor league position players, including top 2021 draft choice Marcelo Mayer, attended a mini-camp with the focus on strength and conditioning. Players also went through on-field skill work, taking rounds of batting practice and reps in the field.
“Growing up playing travel ball, you’re playing year-round,” Miller told the Globe from just outside JetBlue Park. “Yeah. I enjoyed that growing up, and then you get to high school and you only play [a certain number of games]. So, this was the first year in a long time that I’ve played baseball the entirety of the year.
“It was a nonstop 12 months of baseball, which I don’t mind at all.”
Miller is from Spanish Fort, Ala., and was drafted in the 23rd round by the Pittsburgh Pirates after hitting .403 with 13 homers and 34 RBIs in his senior season, earning him the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Hitter of the Year Award. Following high school, Miller went the junior college route for a year, making the all-region team for East Mississippi Community College.
#RedSox draft another lefty power bat, as they go with Tyler Miller (.@AuburnBaseball) in the 9th round.— Tyler Milliken (@tylermilliken_) July 12, 2021
Huge fan of this pick. Potential for 20+ HR power and has shown a solid hit tool to match it.
Played mostly 1B this season, but isn’t stuck there.#DirtyWater| #MLB pic.twitter.com/ASuWvmVFZ9
While Miller saw the majority of his time at first base in college, he spent most of his time at third base in pro ball last year. It’s a position the Sox believe he can handle. He also played shortstop and outfield in college, and while the Sox haven’t entertained that idea, it shows his versatility.
“We actually had Tyler in to Fenway right before the draft, and he took an extensive amount of ground balls at third base,” said Sox vice president of amateur scouting Mike Rikard. “He looked good there and we knew he played a number of positions.”
“Versatility is important,” Miller continued. “Versatility is huge, and I’m starting to like third base and I can slide over to first base and designated hitter. I played the outfield before, just learning the new positions.”
Versatility can only help Miller’s case as he rises through the ranks. He’s not a top prospect just yet, but his bat intrigues the Red Sox. His raw power potential is undoubtedly one of the better parts of his game and, perhaps, something he can tap into more with better plate discipline.
“I feel like I need to improve most on taking a pitch that’s a strike on the outside,” Miller said. “And then maybe he throws the next ball for a mistake and I hit it over. It’s taking their perfect pitches and hitting their mistakes.”
That, of course, is part of his progression, and with the more pitches and scenarios thrown at him, Miller is confident that aspect of his game will improve. For now, Miller will get a bit of a breather, but his eyes are fixated on what lies ahead.
“I’m excited for spring training,” Miller said. “I’ve been putting in some work, starting to really get going. It’s kind of a trial year for draft guys. So we really don’t know what to expect for spring training, just what we’ve heard. So I’m putting in the work to make sure that I’m 100 percent where I need to be.”
Julian McWilliams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.