Surprise Mariners player projected to crack ESPN's Top 100 list next season

ESPN has come out with a player from each team who could be next up on the MLB top 100, including this Mariners' youngster.
Washington Nationals v Seattle Mariners
Washington Nationals v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

We've been looking at top lists all offseason. It's not just the current top lists that I like to parse through, but the next-up ones as well. ESPN released a list predicting the next entrant into the top 100 for every team in baseball. It immediately piqued my interest.

Who could it be? Were they going to go with one of the Mariners' top prospects? Unlikely, but possible. My first thought was actually JP Crawford. If he replicates what he did in 2023, there is no reason that he wouldn't be one of the top 100 players in baseball. That level of offense out of the shortstop position is top 5 in the game, so it would make sense. Alas, that wasn't it either. Even if they did admit he was a snub to the top 100 list.

Maybe Matt Brash or Andres Munoz? There were a couple of other relievers on this list. Brash was 3rd in fWAR last season. Munoz has a chance to be "the guy" and lead this team in saves. Yet, it was neither of them. With Julio, Castillo, Kirby, Gilbert, and Cal all in the top 100, there weren't many options left for another entrant. Essentially, it had to be Bryan Woo or Bryce Miller.

Bryce Miller is next up for the MLB 100

We've talked about it a fair amount this offseason, but there is a lot of hype surrounding the new splitter that Bryce Miller is throwing. He's been impressing everyone with its movement, even if it is just in the lab, in the cage, and in Spring Training up to this point. If he can add a legitimate third pitch to his arsenal, especially one that is effective against LHB, it's going to make him a much more dominant pitcher.

There is a part of me that becomes giddy when thinking about what would happen if Miller jumped into the same level of pitching as Gilbert. Gilbert would be an acceptable #1 for a handful of teams in baseball. If the Mariners can get Miller to that level, still a tough ask, then they would have four number one pitchers, and two of which who are arguable Aces.

For anyone worrying about an innings limit with Miller, I don't think we need to. He did end up throwing a combined 151 innings last season, the majority of which were at the Major League level. Expecting him to get somewhere in that 160-180 range doesn't seem like a major ask. 5-5.5 innings per start, at 30-32 starts, and that puts him at 150-176. He threw 5.25 innings per start in 2023, although he only eclipsed 100 pitches once last season.

For Miller to get into the top 100, let's look at who he would need to be as good as. Sonny Gray is #80, Merrill Kelly is #98, and Walker Buehler is #100. Now, I'm immeadiately throwing Buehler out. He has 2 top-10 Cy Young finishes, and had a 2.82 ERA from 2018-2021. He's fully recovered from surgery, which is the reason he is down there, that he hasn't thrown since being injured in 2022.

Gray has been exceptional the last two seasons. If he can repeat that once more (if healthy), he's going to take another jump up this list. The group above him (Luzardo, Steele, Senga, Bieber, Perez, Glasnow, Montgomery, Gilbert) all rank from 79-62, and are an incredible group. That's the level of pitcher you need to be to get onto this list. Does Miller have it?

You could argue he got tired at the end of the year, having thrown an amount of innings he just hadn't done before. He had a 3.88 ERA with two starts left, and finished with a 4.32. 52.4% of Miller's Earned Runs that he gave up last season happened in just 5 of his 25 starts. Those other 20 games, he had an ERA of 2.48. I'm not saying he would do that for a full season, and far from it. As he gets more comfortable, maybe 2 of those blowouts go away, and another one is managed better on his end.

Could he turn that 33 ER in 22-2/3 IP into something like 23 ER in 28 IP? That puts his ERA into the 3.50 range. 170 innings, a 3.48 ERA, a low WHIP due to his impressive walk rate, and a strikeout per inning? Yeah, you can see why they think he is going to make a push for the top 100. If Bryce Miller figures it out? I'll see you in Late October.