Who is Alec Mills? Fast facts about the Cubs’ first no-hit pitcher since 2016

Now both Chicago MLB teams have a no-hitter to their credit this season. The Cubs’ Alec Mills joined the White Sox’s Lucas Giolito on Sunday by no-hitting the Brewers 12-0 in Milwaukee. Mills needed 114 pitches to achieve the feat; No. 114 resulted in a ground ball to a shifted shortstop Javy Baez, who threw out Jace Peterson.

The no-no also was the Cubs’ first since Jake Arrieta blanked the Reds in 2016.

While Giolito was a highly regarded prospect in the minors, the 28-year-old Mills was the opposite. That makes his achievement a little more compelling. A quick profile of the North Side no-hit pitcher:

Mills might not have gotten a chance under today’s draft rules  

The right-hander began his pro career as a 22nd-round selection of the Royals in 2012 out of Tennessee-Martin. MLB’s annual draft has been 40 rounds for a number of years, but financial constraints brought on by COVID-19 slashed the number of selections to five rounds this year and the 2021 draft may be as few as 20 rounds. Mills might be in undrafted free-agent territory nowadays. 

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He was a college walk-on

Then again, Mills might have been fine working his way through pro ball without a draft pedigree. As TBS’s Rich Waltz noted on the game broadcast, Mills walked onto the squad at Tennessee-Martin, where he wound up pitching three seasons (2010-12). He totaled 192 innings, 165 strikeouts and 13 wins for the Skyhawks of the Ohio Valley Conference.

He was traded for a guy the Cubs reacquired

Kansas City sent Mills to Chicago on Feb. 8, 2017, for minor league outfielder Donnie Dewees, who was the Cubs’ second-round pick (47th overall) in 2015 out of the University of North Florida. Dewees lasted two seasons in the Royals’ chain before being traded back to the Cubs for minor league pitcher Stephen Ridings in March 2019. Dewees spent last season with Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate in Iowa. He posted 16 home runs and a .793 OPS, both career highs.

The Cubs called up Mills for the first time in 2018 and he has spent parts of the past three seasons with the parent club. Now he has a no-hitter to his name and a rotation spot for a team that’s close to clinching a playoff berth. The shutout Sunday, his first career complete game, lowered his ERA to 3.93 over 52 2/3 innings in 2020.

That’s pretty good work by the Chicago front office: Turn a high pick into a big leaguer who throws no-hitters, and then get back that high pick.

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