|JUNE STATS||2019 STATS|
|3 HR, 6 2B, 13 RBI||4 HR, 13 2B, 33 RBI|
|12 K/13 BB||40 K/20 BB|
Though he may not have laced up a pair of cleats until he was a teenager, Juan Carlos Millan Jr’s love for the game was born in him at an early age. As a young child, JC spent many hours watching his father, Juan Carlos Senior, prepare off the field and perform on the field in the family’s home country.
“Back in Cuba I played little baseball, but I remember watching him play in packed stadiums. It felt like the World Baseball Classic.”
When JC was eight, the Millan family emigrated to the United States, settling in South Florida. According to Junior, it was then that he started learning how to play the game. His tutor: none other than his hero, his dad.
“When we got here, I started playing more baseball and my dad started training me pretty much from scratch,” Millan said. “I wasn’t very good until everyday sessions became our thing.”
Junior’s rudimentary start would wind up being a blessing. Through many hours spent practicing together, ensuring fundamentals, creating a swing and building arm strength, the Millans strengthened their bond as father and son.
“He’s my right hand man, my brother; everything to me,” JC said. “I used to watch him, now it’s time to for him to enjoy watching me and see what he created. It’s really cool.”
When his high school age came calling, Millan devoted his services to Brito Academy in Miami, the same secondary school that berthed the likes of Manny Machado and former Marlin Gaby Sanchez. According to JC, the atmosphere created by the coaching staff at Brito (despite being hard at times) is plenty responsible for bridging the his gap between childhood hopeful and young adult prodigy.
“They opened the doors for me, giving me a place where I could develop myself as a baseball player and a human being. Everyone in the school is like a family,” JC said. “The coaching staff we had there were amazing people that helped me grow as a baseball player with their guidance on and off the field. I couldn’t be any more thankful for guys like David Fanshawe, Lazaro Fundora, JC Ruiz. Our head coach Pedro Guerra would be a pain sometimes and be hard on us, but I’m glad he was the way. That’s the reason why we won states and had no pressure on us on the field.”
From there, Millan took his talents to nearby Broward College in Coconut Creek. In a single season in the JuCo ranks, he hit .324/.406/.463, garnering the attention of scouts and eventually awarding him a free-agent contract, post-draft To Millan’s delight, the team that came calling was none other than his hometown Marlins. According to JC, being able to stay at home and maintain a close relationship with his family — especially his dad — has been advantageous for his career as well as his life.
“Playing here in Miami in front of my family and staying close was a huge help,” Millan said. Being able to stay close to my Dad has been huge because he has taught me pretty much everything I know about baseball.”
After signing, Millan attended spring training camp and was assigned to extended spring training before remaining in Jupiter as a member of the 2016 GCL squad. In his first taste of professional ball, Millan hit a modest .177/.250/.228, but his strong contact tool was already on the rise as he only struck out nine times in 79 ABs.
A season later, Millan wound up a ton of frequent flyer miles as the club attempted to gauge his level of maturation. Millan played at all four levels of the system, beginning in A Greensboro before a three day stay in AAA New Orleans. Following another two weeks back with the Grasshoppers, Millan spent 13 games in AA Jacksonville before ending the year with seven games in A+ Jupiter. According to Millan who always seeks the positive in any situation, he views his 2018 campaign as a good lesson on how to stay motivated and how to stay grinding, no matter where you are.
“I was healthy during that time; I was just moving up and down wherever the organization needed me to be,” Millan said. “I never lost sight of what I was trying to do. I always played hard and gave 100% whereever they sent me; it didn’t affect me at all. It just kept pushing me to be better each day.”
This season, Millan has not only stayed in one place for more than a few weeks, he’s spent his entire season with the Jacksonville Shrimp. According to Millan, getting the opportunity to build a relationship with his teammates and coaches and getting a feel for scouting his opposition have been the biggest catalysts for his success this season, including his big month of June. And of course, Millan has remained in constant contact with his biggest supporter and mentor, his father.
“Playing for one team for a while helps a lot since you face the same pitchers over and over, so you sort of have a feel of how they pitch to you. I just trust my preparation before the game and the game plan I have for each pitcher,” Millan said. “Also, my coaching staff and teammates have really helped me feel comfortable. Whatever I feel like I’m doing wrong, I ask the coaches and we go and work on things. Plus when I give my dad a call and he’s watching the game, he’s tells me a couple of the same things and I’m able to make the adjustments right away.”
Millan’s breakout has coincided with the changing of the guard; with the Marlins franchise coming under the control of the Jeter regime. J.C. says that is no coincidence.
“They have done a great job getting good prospects in the organization and giving guys a chance to show what they have before making any decisions,” Millan said. “Since day one, I knew these guys were going to change things around and find a way to get the best guys to make a winning team and it’s showing. Down here in the lower levels, there’s a lot more talent compared to past years and I’m sure this organization will have a lot of success in the near future.”
Approaching from a nearly straight-away righty stance, Millan uses a toe-tap trigger before slightly stepping in to an uppercut stroke that makes the most of his upper half. Where Millan has shown the most improvement this year has been his contact tool. By shifting his stance deeper into the box, Millan is reading pitches better and putting bat to ball on a much more consistent basis. The aforementioned opportunity of getting to face the same competition more than once has led to a much better average. With better plate vision and bat speed to his credit this year, Millan is profiling as a future catalytic bat off the bench. If he finishes filling out advantageously and begin integrating his lower half in his swing more, addding more launch angle and leverage (which he has flashed this past month), Millan, who also has eligibility at first base, would have a ceiling reminiscent of Josh Reddick, a .274/.322/.431 career bat.