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2023 Athletics Season in Review: Mason Miller

Mason Miller had an electric debut, but was put on the shelf by another injury and will enter the 2024 season in the A’s bullpen.

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Lost in the midst of the Oakland Athletics’ 112 loss season, was the major league debuts of a number of the franchises’ top prospects. One of those debuts came in April when hard throwing right-hander Mason Miller joined the major league roster after just 19 13 innings across three levels of the minors.

How Acquired?

Oakland drafted Miller in the third round of the 2021 Draft out of Gardner Webb University.

What were the expectations?

Expectations were pretty high for a pitcher that has spent more time rehabbing injuries than actually pitching. Miller has turned heads at every stop when he has been healthy enough to pitch. A scapula injury during the spring in 2022 cost him most of the season. When he did return, he advanced all the way to Triple A and then finished the year in the Arizona Fall League where he showed off a triple digit fastball. That performance pushed him onto the back half of Top 100 prospect lists.

2023 Results

Miller made three starts between Low A and Double A before again making the jump to Las Vegas to begin the season. He made four starts there where he struck out 23 hitters while tossing 12 scoreless innings. Miller made his major league debut on April 19 and allowed six runs in 8 13 innings combined in his first two starts. He then tossed seven scoreless innings against the Mariners and allowed two runs over six innings against the Royals before hitting the 15-day injured list with a UCL sprain.

Miller finally returned to action in September, but out of the bullpen with a strict pitch count. He logged 12 more innings across six appearances where he struck out 16 while allowing six runs. Combined, Miller appeared in 10 games and had a 3.78 ERA and a 3.47 FIP to go along with a 27.3% strikeout rate in 33 13 innings.

What went right? What went wrong?

Miller has shown the ability to be an impact starter at every step of the way during his time as a professional. The fastball velocity is at the top of the charts and he pairs it with a wipeout slider. His changeup is still a work in progress, but he has shown good command if he could only stay healthy. That is really knock on Miller. His delivery has been described as violent and a UCL sprain is a scary situation for any pitcher.

2024 Outlook

While speaking at the Winter Meetings, A’s general manager David Frost indicated that Miller will begin the season as a reliever. They won’t rule out starting down the road, but it appears to be a similar situation as the one with A.J. Puk who also had issues staying healthy as a starter. Miller has the stuff to be a lights out reliever and could possibly fill the closer’s role after Trevor May retired. While he clearly could excel as a reliever, the hope would be that he can log enough healthy innings, that a return to starting could be explored down the road.