I've been sitting on the idea of writing about Miles Mikolas for a while now. No, he is not the second coming of Yu Darvish. It's also likely, if not completely probable, that he will never be part of a meaningful, playoff-caliber starting rotation.
But none of that really matters right now.
It's easy to see one start -- like tonight's eight shutout inning performance against the Mariners -- and start fantasizing about a serviceable #4 starting pitcher. Small sample size success lends itself to suspending disbelief. However, Miles Mikolas is not a one-trick pony; tonight was not the first time he's thrown a gem, and it's not even the second or third time.
The problem with Mikolas is his ability to tease the senses. In a two-start stretch at the beginning of August, he threw 7.0 innings and 5.0 innings, respectively, allowing 2 runs and 1 run (also respectively). He followed that by getting shelled to the tune of 10 runs in 6 frames against the Rays.
On July 21st against the Yankees, he surrendered 2 runs on 4 hits in 7.1 innings on the bump, probably the best start of his career until tonight against Seattle. Following that, he gave up 8 runs on 7 hits in 4.2 innings against the Athletics.
He was also crushed in his second start of 2014 -- against Houston -- as he gave up 9 runs in 3.1 innings.
After shuffling through so many clunkers, it's no surprise why Mikolas, even after a strong performance tonight, has an ERA of 6.44. He's gotten clobbered in 2014 as many times as he's been brilliant, and he's still spent only 57.1 innings on the bump this year.
To fully appreciate Miles Mikolas, we first have to understand why he's here in the first place, and what the Rangers had to give up to bring him here.
Heading into the 2014 season, Texas traded 1B/COF Chris McGuinnes -- a player out of options who had no real place in Arlington to begin with -- to the Pirates, who acquired Mikolas from the Padres earlier in the winter. In an ideal scenario, Miles would have been stored at Triple-A for the duration of the year, and the Rangers wouldn't have had to delve into their 10th and 11th-best starting pitcher options.
But that wasn't the case.
It goes deeper than that, though, because up until 2014 Mikolas was a relief pitcher. Until making his debut with the Rangers he had never started a major league game, and in fact hadn't been used as a starter since 2009 -- his first year as a professional with the Padres Low-A affiliate. Obviously Texas's front office saw something in him that gave them some semblance of hope that he could handle a starter's workload, even if his helter-skelter results on the mound haven't made believers of anyone just yet.
When Mikolas has been good, he's been really good, and when he's been bad it's been tough to watch. That, though, is basically the scouting report of any young pitcher. We can't forget that these are the first innings he's thrown as a starter since he was a 20 year-old, and they're not coming in the Midwest League; this is the bigs. It's real.
He doesn't project as anything more than a depth starter down the road, especially once 2015 gets underway and Yu Darvish and Derek Holland and a cast of other more highly-regarded pitchers are back to health. He isn't a strikeout pitcher (14.4% K rate), but he also doesn't allow many hitters on base via the walk (2.83 BB/9). He's essentially your garden variety back-of-the-rotation starter at best. For the Rangers, who plan to compete next year, he shouldn't be more than the 7th or 8th option, hopefully spending the majority of the season soaking up innings in Round Rock.
That doesn't limit his significance to this year's club, though. He's one of Texas's soldiers during the bleakest of years, providing a start every fifth day and, on nights like this, shining through. For what the Rangers got him for, and how he has looked -- even if only on mere occasion -- Miles Mikolas has been a steal for the organization, and that shouldn't be overlooked.