By JAY LeBLANC
August 4, 2008
Cleveland Indians prospect Beau Mills - son of former Montreal Expos infielder and current Boston Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills - grew up around baseball, and when you watch him play, it’s obvious he was paying attention. Scouts rave about Mills’ makeup and his feel for the game, and he understands the level of dedication needed to succeed in pro ball. Better yet, the 6’ 2”, 220 pounder can mash with the best of ‘em.
Mills was highly regarded as a high schooler, but he made it clear to big league teams that he intended to go to college. The Red Sox took him in the 44th round of the 2004 draft anyway, but he never came close to signing and headed off to Fresno State. Mills slugged 36 homers in his two seasons with the Bulldogs, but was dismissed from the team as a result of academic shortcomings in 2006. He took the setback in stride and transferred to Lewis-Clark State in Idaho, and after hitting an NAIA-record 38 home runs last spring, the Indians selected him with the 13th overall pick in the 2007 draft.
Mills was considered one of the best pure hitters available in last year’s draft, and he’s shown why this season as a member of the advanced Class A Kinston Indians. He’s hitting .285 through 107 games and leads the Carolina League with 73 RBI while ranking second in the circuit with 17 home runs. Though he’s fanned 87 times, he’s also drawn 45 walks, helping him to post a solid .365 on-base percentage in his first full pro season. After playing third base in college, Mills - who entered this season ranked by Baseball America as the Tribe’s No. 3 prospect and the 87th best in all of baseball - has also displayed a solid work ethic while making the transition to first base. I recently had a chance to speak with the young slugger, who will turn 22 on Aug. 15:
Q: What was your reaction when you learned you’d been drafted in the first round by the Indians? Did you know in advance that they were looking to pick you?
A: No, I actually had no clue. I went into the draft blind, and I kind of wanted it that way. I didn’t want any expectations. I didn’t want to build up my hopes; just go in there and whatever happens, happens. I’d done all my work my three years in college and in high school - my whole life, really - and that day I just wanted it to be whatever happens, happens. First round, 50th round … whatever happened, I was going to be happy with. I had no expectations, but I was very excited when I heard my name called by the Cleveland Indians.
Q: The Red Sox had previously selected you in the 44th round in 2004. Did you consider signing with them instead of heading off to college?
A: Not really. Our plan going into that draft out of high school was to go to college anyway. We told everybody that - told everybody don’t try to sign me, I’m going to college. We really thought that would be a great thing for me, to go to college and mature in baseball and outside of baseball, and fortunately, that’s what happened to me. I had a lot of things to learn and I learned them, and now I think I’m ready to attack pro ball.
Q: Your father, Brad Mills, played for the Expos in the early ‘80s and is now a coach for the Red Sox. How much of a role did he play in your development as a baseball player?
A: Oh, a tremendous role. He’s the No. 1 influence in me, in my play in baseball and in life. He’s a great fatherly figure and a coach. When I was a kid I got to travel with him, go experience the pro ball thing, and grow up in baseball. You know, baseball, like they say, is 80 percent mental, and so to be around the game your whole life in pro ball, and a dad that’s gone through it, you learn that mental side as a kid. If you learn that it’s a big advantage, and I got to do that. I really understand the game and what’s going on, and I understood what I was getting myself into when I came into pro ball.
Q: Could you describe your approach at the plate? Do you try to get into the pitcher’s head, or do you just react to what’s thrown?
A: Right now I’m learning to go to the plate with a plan and stick to my plan. What the pitcher does, he does; I can’t control that. I’m just trying to contol what I can control and get in the box and look for the pitch I’m looking for and try not to swing at anything else. Of course you’re going to, because that’s baseball, but my approach is to go in there and look for the pitch that I’m looking for, and if the pitcher throws it, I’m going to hit it.
Q: You’ve played first base and third base so far during your pro career. What position do you think you’ll end up at?
A: I think I’ll end up at first base. I’ll play anywhere the Indians want me to play and I’m not going to exclude myself from any positions - outfield, infield, anywhere, I’ll play there. Right now they really like me at first and I like to be at first, and I feel real comfortable over there; I’m getting even more comfortable as we go on.
Q: What are some aspects of your game that you’re trying to improve upon this season?
A: It was definitely first base, you know, getting used to that. I’d never played there before pro ball, and so coming in here I was really looking to get used to that, and then just make adjustments at the plate. I think if you tackle those areas, you’re going to succeed in pro ball.
Q: When do you think you’ll be ready to help the Indians?
A: However soon they want me (laughs). I feel like I’m learning a lot and of course, the thing about baseball is you’re always going to keep learning. I don’t care if you’re in your 10th year in the big leagues - I think guys are learning something every day, and the time they stop learning stuff, I think that’s the time to retire, which guys do, that want to. This game is about learning, and you keep learning. Right now I feel ready. Even though there are still things to learn, I like I can help the ballclub no matter where it’s at.
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times and Mayor of the National Pastime web community. His Prospect Q&A column runs every Monday and Thursday throughout the season. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Amanda Rice
Be sure to check out our previous National Pastime Prospect Q&A’s: Matt Wieters, Orioles; Ross Detwiler, Nationals; Adrian Alaniz, Nationals; Jake Arrieta, Orioles; Greg Golson, Phillies; John Shelby III, White Sox; Brandon Erbe, Orioles; Chris Marrero, Nationals; Jason Donald, Phillies; John Ely, White Sox; Nolan Reimold, Orioles; Michael Burgess, Nationals; Wes Hodges, Indians; Colton Willems, Nationals; Chris Tillman, Orioles; Dominic Brown, Phillies; Brandon Hicks, Braves; Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals; Nick Weglarz, Indians; Gorkys Hernandez, Braves.