File this under the low-risk but potentially high-reward category: the trade that sent local boy who didn’t make good Manny Delcarmen from Boston to Colorado in August of 2010 in exchange for right-hander Chris Balcom-Miller.
Balcom-Miller, who played shortstop in high school before deciding to concentrate on pitching, was picked in the sixth round of the 2009 draft by the Rockies, and would have been taken by the Red Sox shortly after had he dropped. Last season, he pitched his way up from High-A Salem to Double-A Portland.
In seven Carolina League starts, Balcom-Miller was 3-1 with a 2.34 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings.
Balcom-Miller pounds the strike zone with a plus sinker which not only makes his infielders happy because it induces groundballs, but also cuts down on home runs allowed.In 53 career minor league starts prior to this season, Balcom-Miller served up only 13 gopher balls. In addition, while at Salem, his groundball-to-fly ball ratio was 3.6.
After moving up to Portland, Balcom-Miller only went 3-6 with a 4.81 ERA. But he did fan 75 batters in 82 1/3 innings. Obviously, what allowed him to dominate Carolina League batters didn’t play all that well in the Eastern League.
So far this season, Balcom-Miller is struggling back in Portland.
In his first 13 games, he was 3-4 with a 4.80 replete with 38 walks and only 33 whiffs in 53 1/3 innings.
“If a young pitcher has a dominating pitch that he can lean on against inexperienced and younger batters, then he has a chance to dominate,” said an American League scout. “But the real test comes in the upper minor leagues.
“Balcom-Miller will have to rely more on his secondary pitches like his changeup and slider. Right now, I’d rate them as average complementary pitches. And he doesn’t throw his changeup as much as I’d like to see him throw it. He has the potential to throw a slider that will keep hitters off balance or get them to chase it off the plate.
“Eventually,” added the scout, “his slider could develop into a plus pitch.”
For the most part, Balcom-Miller has exhibited good command. That’s evidenced by that fact that in 289 career innings entering this season, he’d walked just 61 batters.
“Because of his command, he should be able to succeed against better hitters,” said the scout. “But he must continue to work on his changeup. It’s better since he turned pro and he has to become confident enough in that pitch to throw it at any time in the count.
“How he develops should determine whether Boston keeps him as a starter or converts him to a reliever.”