The Mariners’ third-round selection baffled the MLB Network talking heads as they struggled to find information about the Gonzaga sidewinder, not even listed in MLB’s top 500. “He’s a...reliever? Let’s see if we can at least get his numbers.”
It’s understandable; Mills himself didn’t think he would be an MLB player, describing himself as a “late bloomer.” The Spokane native came to the attention of area scouts last season and was actually drafted by the Rays in the 17th round, but opted instead to return to Gonzaga for his senior season, citing a desire to stay close to home and try to help the Bulldogs go deep in the NCAA tournament, as well as complete his degree in Business Administration.
The 6’3” sidearming righty has steadily improved over his career at Gonzaga. At a freshman, he carried a 3.65 ERA over 12 innings; in his sophomore year, he pitched 19 innings and collected his first save while recording a 2.79 ERA. His junior year, however, he made a significant jump forward, striking out 38 batters in 37 innings of work—enough to attract the attention of Tampa Bay. Instead of signing, Mills played in the Alaska Baseball League, where he notched five saves and put up a 0.55 ERA for the Anchorage Bucs. In his senior season at Gonzaga, he improved even further, collecting 12 saves while putting up a 1.79 ERA. What really stands out about Mills is his excellent command of the strike zone; this season he had a 26-inning stretch where he didn’t walk a batter, while striking out 40. His strikeout/walk ratio is a bizzonkers 58/4 (and two of those walks were intentional).
Mills will be a less-expensive signing, indicating the Mariners will have to go way overslot to sign Sam Carlson. But the only reason he isn’t playing pro ball right now is that he wanted to go back for his senior season, so by no means is this a throwaway pick. Here’s a link to him back in 2013—already so tall!