Breakout AFL has Miller on D-backs map

Lefty could be a candidate for the Opening Day roster

Breakout AFL has Miller on D-backs map

With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's D-backs squad each day this week. Today's topic: Who might surprise?

PHOENIX -- Let's be real clear about something: At 6-foot-7, it's hard for Jared Miller to sneak up on anyone.

The left-hander, though, could wind up surprising some folks by being a key bullpen contributor for the D-backs as soon as Opening Day.

Who might surprise for each club in 2017?

First a little background.

Miller was drafted by the D-backs in the 11th round in 2014 and in his first two years in the Arizona system, he was a starting pitcher with decent results.

After finishing the 2015 with Kane County of the Midwest League, where he went 4-5 with a 5.88 ERA in 13 games (12 starts), the D-backs decided to shift Miller to the bullpen where his fastball-cutter mix would not require a third offering.

"I took it as a demotion," Miller told MiLB.com last fall. "They told me to put my head down and work and that this was a chance to help me move quickly. 'Yeah,' I thought, 'they're just telling me what I want to hear.' I'm a competitor. I want to compete for my job. But I wasn't going to let that ruin my year."

The move to the bullpen paid off in a big way as Miller rocketed through the system.

After starting 2016 with 14 1/3 scoreless innings back in Kane County, he moved to Class A Visalia, where he had a 1.88 ERA in 12 games. That earned him a promotion to Double-A Mobile, where he compiled a 3.71 ERA in 19 games.

Once again that was good enough for a step up as he finished the season by appearing in five games with Triple-A Reno.

While his performance during the season may have gotten him some attention, his dominating performance in the Arizona Fall League -- he did not allow a run in 18 1/3 innings while striking out 30 and walking just four -- opened the eyes of scouts throughout baseball.

Miller is a non-roster invite to D-backs' camp, but if there's one area of the team that figures to feature wide-open competition this spring it's the bullpen, which was an Achilles' heel in 2015.

Miller's timing is good, as well given the success a team like the Indians had last October with the way they utilized lefty Andrew Miller.

No one is saying Jared Miller is at Andrew Miller's level yet, but simply that he could give the D-backs a left-hander in the bullpen who can get both righties and lefties out as well as pitch more than one inning.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.