North Carolina'sAndrew Miller and Daniel Bard are the yin and yang of college baseball's mostcelebrated pitching staff. Miller is a 6'6", 210-pound lefthander, quietand unassuming--introverted even--as uncomfortable in the spotlight as he is atpeace on the mound. Bard is a 6'4", 202-pound righthander, brash andconfident, a fiery presence both on the field and off. Miller's sense of styleis old khaki shorts and beat-up golf shirts; Bard prefers trendy T-shirts. Butthe two hard-throwing juniors have one thing in common: Both are considered top10 prospects in the June 6-7 major league baseball draft. If Miller is nottaken No. 1 by the parsimonious Kansas City Royals, it's widely believed he'llgo No. 2 to the Colorado Rockies.
Money has figuredinto Miller's draft status before. As a senior at Buchholz High in Gainesville,Fla., in 2003, he was considered the top amateur pitcher in the country.Concerns over his hefty price tag (at the time he reportedly was asking for abonus of $3 million) caused him to slip all the way to the third round, wherehe was selected by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. "I really wanted to go tocollege," says Miller, "so I just threw a number out there figuringthat if they matched it, I would have to take it." Tampa passed, making himthe highest draft pick that year not to sign.
So Miller wentoff to Chapel Hill, where he found a partner in crime in Bard, the NorthCarolina high school player of the year at Charlotte Christian and a 20th-roundpick of the New York Yankees. In their first season together, in 2004, the twostarters led the Tar Heels to a 43-21 record. Bard was the ACC freshman of theyear, and Miller won second-team All-ACC honors. But with expectations higherin their sophomore year, a poisonous locker room--"too many cliques,"says Bard--contributed to a late-season collapse. The Heels finished on a 6-11skid, and after the team was eliminated from the NCAA tournament, Bard andMiller thought about transferring. "It just wasn't a lot of fun," saysMiller. "I think there was a lot of resentment in the locker room from theolder players toward some of us younger guys, and that spilled onto thefield."
Miller and Bardtook out their frustrations on batters in the Cape Cod League, doing so wellthat Baseball America named them the top two pro prospects there. Bard went 3-3with a 1.25 ERA and led the league in strikeouts. Meanwhile, Miller puttogether a perfect 6-0 record with a 1.65 ERA and turned in one performancethat will remain in Cape League lore. On a foggy night in Chatham, Millerstruck out the first 12 batters he faced--only to have his record outing erasedwhen the game was called after four innings. "That's one I wish I couldkeep," he says with a sigh.
June 4, 2006
When theyreturned to school, Miller, Bard and the rest of the Carolina pitching staffgrew mustaches to bolster team unity. ("Hideous," says Bard of Miller's'stache. "Worst on the team.") With improved team chemistry, the TarHeels are 45-13 and even spent three weeks ranked No. 1 in the country, a firstfor the program. Meanwhile, scouts have flocked to Chapel Hill, with more than40 showing up on Feb. 19 for a Bard-Miller doubleheader against Seton Hall. Onebird dog calls Miller, who was ACC pitcher of the year, "can't-miss,"comparing his style with that of a young Tom Glavine. "Both these guys aremajor league pitchers," says the scout. "Miller might be one right now,and Bard is a bulldog with a mid-90s fastball." With the NCAA tournamentset to begin this weekend, Bard is 7-3 with a 3.53 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 79innings. Miller has solidified his standing as the nation's top prospect, withan 11-2 record, 2.07 ERA and 102 K's in 95 2/3 innings.
Since they arelikely to turn pro after the season, both know that this will probably be theirlast shot at a trip to Omaha for the College World Series. "Last year lefta really bad taste in our mouths," says Miller. "The draft will takecare of itself. Right now our focus is on taking this team all theway."
Ones to Watch
Besides Miller and Bard, here are five other pitchingprospects projected to go high in next week's draft.
TIM LINCECUM, RHP, Washington
Undersized (6-foot, 165 pounds) flamethrower leads nation in strikeouts pernine innings (14.3).
BRAD LINCOLN, RHP, Houston
Another 6-footer, the Roger Clemens Award semifinalist is 12-1 with a 1.64ERA.
GREG REYNOLDS, RHP, Stanford
May not have stuff of other top hurlers, but at 6'7", 225 pounds, has lotsof suitors.
JOBA CHAMBERLAIN, RHP, Nebraska
Native American star must reestablish breaking pitches to end overreliance onfastball.
LUKE HOCHEVAR, RHP, Fort Worth Cats
Former Dodgers pick (a Scott Boras client) reenters draft. Went 15-3 atTennessee in '05.