Throughout the 2018/2019 offseason, Marlin Maniac will devote one article each for every player who appeared in the Miami Marlins system for the 2018 season. Every. Single. Player. This is Part 56 of 286. Stay tuned.
McKenzie Valentine Mills is a 6’4″, 205 lb. left-handed pitcher from Marietta, Georgia. Marietta is also home to current and former major league players Dansby Swanson, Todd Jones, and Jeremy Hermida. Born on November 19th, 1995, Mills was initially selected in the 18th round of the 2014 MLB Amateur Entry Draft by the Washington Nationals, 544th overall out of Sprayberry High School for $150,000. Sprayberry is also the alma mater of former major leaguers Kris Benson, Marlon Byrd, and Jim Nash. Players chosen 544th overall have ended up in the majors three times, led by Desmond Jennings (2005, Cleveland Indians, 13.4 career WAR). Follow Mills on Twitter @mckenziemills27. According to the MLB Pipeline:
"He has a low-90s fastball with good life to it, an above-average curve and good feel for an average changeup, all coming from a fast arm and deceptive delivery. His improved ability to repeat his delivery greatly impacted his command and control."
Mills worked his way up through the Nationals system, eventually going 12-2 for the Hagerstown Suns in the single-A South Atlantic League in 2016, with a 3.01 ERA and 118 whiffs in 104 2/3 innings. The Nats traded Mills with international pool money to the Philadelphia Phillies for Howie Kendrick on July 28th, 2017. Before leaving, Mills was named to the SAL all-star team.
"I really like to start. Starting gives me a routine and allows me to study my opponents and gets my mind mentally right to go deep in a ball game.I don’t mind if I have to go to the bullpen at the big league level. As long as I get there I want to stay there no matter what role I play. – Mills"
Mills finished out the 2017 campaign with the Clearwater Phillies, in the high-A Florida State League, then began 2018 in the same place. By then he was the number 24 prospect in the Phillies system. He started 16 times and came out of the pen four times, going 2-5 with a 2.51 ERA and 85 K’s in 89 2/3 innings. On August 10th, the Phillies sent Mills to the Miami Marlins for Justin Bour.
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Mills joined the rotation in Jacksonville with the Jumbo Shrimp for four starts to close the 2018 season, in the double-A Southern League. He went 0-3 through his first three starts, with a 10.80 ERA and a concerning 1.886 WHIP. On August 30th, his final start of the year, he earned no decision after pitching five innings of four-hit ball, allowing one earned run and striking out two in an eventual 4-3 loss to the Mississippi Braves. In his short stay in Jacksonville, he also got his first two professional plate appearances.
"I think it would be more beneficial for pitchers to hit at every level in the minor leagues. When I got to AA at the end of the year it was pretty hard to figure everything out again. My Dad tells me I can’t hit. – Mills"
Currently Miami’s 29th rated prospect, Mills is currently on the Jupiter Hammerheads roster. He’s the Marlins’ fourth ranked left-handed starter on the depth chart, after only Caleb Smith, Wei-Yin Chen, and Dillon Peters. As such, his progression to the major league level may be expedited, based on the Miami Marlins immediate needs going forward. He may get a Spring Training invitation, and should spend most of 2019 with the Jumbo Shrimp.
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