Sixteen-year-old prospects who throw 90 MPH are difficult to find, especially when they are 5’10” and weigh 180 pounds. In Alexander Central High School product Cade Miller, however, that is exactly what ECU found when the 2022 right-hander committed to play for the Pirates on Monday.
All his life, Miller has been playing up, whether it be on school teams or travel rosters in the area. From an early age, the ability to throw hard was immediately there for the future Pirate, a trait that propelled him to continue challenging himself moving forward.
“I believe I was around seven,” Miller said. “I was playing up with the 10-year-old’s and I was keeping up with most of them, I was passing some of them. That was kind of when I realized I throw harder than most kids two or three years older than me. I just kept working from that day.”
Largely left alone to find his natural delivery until he was around 13 years old, Miller began catching the eye of trainers and pitching coaches around the Hickory, North Carolina area. It was at 13 when Miller received the advice and coaching that cleaned up his delivery, making it smoother and more efficient.
“Ages 9-13 was just all natural, like very minute coaching,” Miller said. “About 13, I met a guy over at the Heat facility in Hickory, North Carolina. He just went through — because he noticed I was throwing harder than most of the kids there — and he just tweaked like keeping my glove close to my body, keeping my arm angle up, just making sure my body was moving more fluidly and not as violent as it was before.”
In the three years since then, Miller said his main focus has been on generating velocity out of his 5’10” frame. More recently, Miller has received coaching from a local trainer that has allowed him to build that velocity that is so vital in the game of baseball these days.
“I started the season in February, I was topping 86, good delivery but very violent with a few back leg problems, not keeping it on the ground,” Miller said. “He just helped me slowly realize it by putting me through drills, keeping that back leg on the ground and I just started picking up velocity. I jumped three miles per hour that week and I’ve been building since.”
While much of Miller’s high school season was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ECU commit stayed in shape by formulating a home workout regiment. When his Dirtbags travel team resumed play, those workouts and preparation allowed him to come back stronger than ever and dominate the competition. Each time out, Miller has increased his velocity, topping out at 91 MPH with his fastball just last weekend.
Since Miller has retaken the mound in competitive action, he used that jump in velocity to rack up the strikeouts, which in turn, grabbed the attention of collegiate coaches around the country. Recently, Miller struck out all 12 batters he faced across four innings, needing only 50 pitches to do so. Immediately after that, he said, is when the likes of Notre Dame and others began calling, but ECU always seemed to have the inside track.
“ECU has been the one that’s been in contact the most, like most interested in me,” Miller said. “Just wanting to know me instead of like ‘hey you throw hard, I want you to come here and throw.’ They’re wanting to know how they can better me instead of just getting me to come play baseball.”
Academically, Miller said he is leaning toward studying physical therapy at ECU and will enter the university with a college degree already in-hand from a local early college. That will allow him to potentially pursue a Master’s Degree while he completes three or four years on the diamond for the Pirates.
While ECU’s approach to recruiting Miller centered more around academics and understanding him as a human being more so than his on-field performance, there is no denying that Cade is a budding star.
With a smoother delivery now, Miller hides the baseball extremely well, making his already live fastball play up even more.
“I’ve never realized I’ve done that until I started watching how I pitch more now so I can see my mechanics,” Miller said. “That’s just the way I’ve been taught to throw and the way I’ve been taught to pitch. I’ve always had the same arm slot and I hide the ball behind my back leg pretty well.
“It allows them (the batter) to not pick up what I’m throwing. Most pitchers when they’re throwing off-speed or a certain pitch they’ll shuffle in their glove or they’ll step to the different side of the mound or they’ll do something different. I’m almost always at the same spot on the mound, same delivery, same arm slot. It really just throws the hitters off. Especially when I come out with a change-up, it just looks so much harder to them than what it is and it just catches them off-guard.”
Miller said he has three top pitches right now that he feels the most comfortable throwing. His fastball is probably the most explosive offering he possesses, at least right now, but his slider has plus potential and he also throws a cutter.
For most 16-year-old’s, three pitches would be at the top-end of the scale. Miller, however, is not like other kids his age and possesses a certain maturity that comes from playing against older and more difficult competition of the majority of his life.
Because of that, Miller has a drive to be the best he can be, and wants to develop five pitches before he steps foot on ECU’s campus his freshman year.
“I should have five solid pitches by the time I reach ECU…That’s just something I want to do on my own,” Miller said. “I want to be able to catch batters off-guard, I don’t want to have the same — 0-2 count, let’s go slider — I want to be able to throw a cutter outside, change-up inside. I don’t want to have the same pitch sequence every time I pitch.”
While some programs and coaches have snubbed their nose at Miller because of his size, there is no denying that he is more mentally mature than most 18, 19 and even 20-year-old’s. He said that is what has allowed him to stick against better competition throughout his baseball career, and that is an attribute that will only pay dividends at the collegiate level.
“Maybe I’m not physically mature but I’m mentally mature enough where I can understand what they’re saying, understand what I need to do, where the ball needs to go,” Miller said. “Just understanding baseball at the same level older kids do.”
Still two years away from pulling on the purple and gold for the first time, Miller said it will not be too hard to focus on what is right in front of him instead of dreaming about playing Division I baseball. He understands that he has an obligation to help his high school and travel teams while at the same time preparing his body for the next level.
That preparation will include bulking up and adding mass so he can reach his desired velocity goals by the time he officially becomes a Pirate.
“My goal is to be around 95 (MPH) my senior year,” Miller said. “I’m currently topping 91 last weekend. My goal is just to around 95, 96. Probably gain about 15-20 pounds, hopefully I can grow some more, that would be nice. I want to have all five pitches mastered. At least pick up one more, which it’s pretty hard to throw all five. Just keep staying unpredictable, keep changing up the way I throw and stay competitive and say ahead of the count.”