SoxProspects News

June 27, 2011 at 9:00 AM

The Book: Chris Balcom-Miller


RHP Chris Balcom-Miller
Date: June 23, 2011
Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Age: 22

Outing: 5.0 innings, 6 hits, 4 strikeouts, 4 walks, 3 earned runs allowed

Fastball: Working to establish this offering in the outing, Balcom-Miller’s fastball displays excellent sink and inward run on the hands of right-handed batters, which is the key strength of the pitch. Throwing his heater 62 times out of 87 pitches, he heavily relied on this pitch to either set batters up or get them to weakly put the ball in play. Sitting 89-90 MPH and touching up to 92 MPH on occasion, the hard sinking action can create strong ground ball totals when Balcom-Miller is able to command the offering in the lower portion of the strike zone. It is the type of fastball that must stay out of the middle of the plate and elevated within the zone though, otherwise batters get good swings at it. Balcom-Miller had trouble commanding his heater in the outing, picking up 34 strikes with it and often seeing the pitch drop too quickly out of the strike zone for batters to offer. Of the 34 strikes he collected, 18 of them were via either foul balls or balls put into play, and he generally relies on opposing hitters putting the pitch into play. From what Balcom-Miller showed in this outing, his fastball is about an average offering, but at times, especially early in the performance, played up as a solid-average pitch that can create swings and misses when started a little bit above the knees.

Delivery: Balcom-Miller has a lot of moving parts to his delivery and does not create easy velocity when bringing the ball to home plate. Utilizing a higher leg kick out of the wind-up, he first drops his shoulder back and then has an “extend and stab” motion as he bring his arm up into its slot. Balcom-Miller also cocks his wrist behind his back and is shorter with his arm. While he is able to consistently repeat his delivery and lock into his release point, the excessive motion and effort in his delivery tired him out. Averaging 90 MPH in his first 30 pitches with his heater and showing good command as well, by pitch number 30 his average fastball velocity had dropped to 89 MPH and his command began to waver. After 60 pitches, that average velocity was down to 88 MPH and he struggled to spot the pitch, looking gassed on the mound.

Take: Recently promoted to Double-A and just making his 5th start with Portland, Balcom-Miller is still adjusting to the step up in competition and getting comfortable with his new challenge. Also possessing a changeup and slider, he mixed these into his outing after the first inning, throwing 15 and 10, respectively. Balcom-Miller’s changeup grades out as his best offering and works 80-83 MPH with drop down through the strike zone. Plus at times, this pitch is average-to-better and he is able to work it off of his fastball. Despite not having huge separation, there is enough change in speeds that when he is burying the changeup batters swing over the top of it and there is potential for it to consistently become solid-average-to-better as he continues to improve his feel. A work in process, Balcom-Miller’s slider is currently a below-average pitch and is on the slurvy side. Operating 80-82 MPH, the break isn’t overly tight and it tends to roll up to the plate, staying in the middle of the strike zone and lacking finish.

Still learning how to pitch and getting the feel for his arsenal, Balcom-Miller has enough projection with his stuff to continue improving it into his mid-20s and have two solid average-to-better offerings at his disposal. Given his delivery and the effort he expends in creating his velocity, it looks like his fastball is maxed out, but could add a tick as he continues to physically mature. With the solid movement he creates, improving his feel for the offering is a key need to enhance his command and help mitigate the average velocity of his fastball. Presently, Balcom-Miller’s heater can have a mind of its own and he runs into instances when he doesn’t have much of an idea where the pitch is going. His delivery also lends clues that he ultimately projects as a reliever at the major league level, where working in shorter stints will allow his stuff to play up the best. With a lot of work to go with his slider, improvement with this pitch will help Balcom-Miller not rely so much on opposing hitters putting the ball in play against him. If the pitch can make a huge jump, he could slot into the back of a rotation, but pushing his slider to average would give him a complimentary piece in a 6th/7th inning role in a big league bullpen. Now in the upper levels of the Red Sox organization, the near-term for Balcom-Miller should focus on continuing to sharpen his overall repertoire in the starting rotation and pushing him against advanced competition to improve his stuff, with the eye on him potentially working into the major league mix in the next two seasons.

 
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