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Why Chris Balcom-Miller at Double-A Matters

Chris Balcom-Miller was promoted to Double-A Portland yesterday after succeeding in his first seven starts at the High-A level. The groundballing right-hander struck out 9.6 hitters per nine while walking just 2.9 per nine, giving him a K/BB of 3.3, and helping him along to a stellar 2.34 ERA and 2.59 Run Average.

Balcom-Miller has a plus sinking fastball that allows him to avoid giving up home runs, and also induces loads of grounders. His G/F ratio for Salem this year was 3.6, a number that merits mention, as that is around the same region that hardcore groundball types like Derek Lowe and even Brandon Webb have been known to live in. He has ridden that pitch hard in the low minors, hence his success: if a young pitcher has a dominating offering they can lean on against inexperienced and younger hitters, they are sure to dominate.

The real test comes in the upper levels of the minors, where the 22-year old Balcom-Miller finds himself now. He will have to rely on his secondary pitches more often--he has a slider/changeup combo--in order to succeed against better hitters who are that much closer to being major-league ready, but thanks to great command, he should be able to do that. 

Now, if Balcom-Miller does succeed in Double-A the same way he has at A-ball, then the Sox all of a sudden have another pitching prospect who may turn into something in the upper minors besides Felix Doubront. As of right now, the Double- and Triple-A levels are nearly bereft of quality pitching help for the future, and, with Anthony Ranaudo not expected to to be in the mix for a little bit yet and Stolmy Pimentel unable to approach anything resembling consistency, nothing on that count will change soon. Except, of course, unless Balcom-Miller proves himself a capable starter yet again.

He doesn't need to be a successful starter in the majors for the trade that netted him last year to be a win for Boston--the Sox dumped perpetual headache Manny Delcarmen on the Rockies for their breakout pitching prospect--as with his one dominating offering, he could have a career as a fine reliever (which is more than you can say about Delcarmen). You hope for more out of all of your prospects, though, and as of now, Balcom-Miller is doing enough to stick as a starter.

The extra depth that Balcom-Miller's success in the upper minors would give them would be welcome news for for an organization that has John Lackey and his balky elbow, Josh Beckett and his back problems, and Daisuke Matsuzaka and his inability to get out of bed each day without hurting himself on board. Plus, anything that has a chance of helping to keep Kevin Millwood in Pawtucket is good by me.