In my last piece, I expressed some skepticism that either Justin Smoak or Dustin Ackley had “figured it out” despite their hot start to the season. I cited an established track record over the past several years and the nothing in the extremely small sample size to suggest anything had changed. We tend to not notice hot streaks when they happen in July, but when they happen at the beginning of the season and the numbers stand alone, we take notice. So, my take was, and is, that we know who Smoak and Ackley are and we should expect that type of production over the course of a full season.
So, now I’m going to seemingly contradict myself in examining a player I really like based on a similarly small sample size. The difference? This kid is only 24 and hasn’t yet played even 100 games in the big leagues.
I really like Brad Miller and think he should slot in at SS as part of the double play combo with Robinson Cano for the foreseeable future.
Miller is a considerable upgrade over Brendan Ryan, who hit .192 with a .254 OBP and slugged a completely anemic .265 in 87 games at shortstop last year for the Mariners before being traded to the Yankees. After the trade, Miller slotted in full-time at short and put up decent numbers for a 23 year old in his first stint in the big leagues: .265/.318/.418.
A Little More Plate Discipline Can Go a Long Way
He hit for average in the minors: .339 in A+ in 2012, .320 in AA in 2012, .294 in AA in 2013, and finally .356 in AAA in 2013 before getting called up. I know that minor league numbers are often inflated because of the size of certain parks and the overall quality of the pitching. Many young players come up and struggle with pitch recognition and are overpowered by the velocity and stuff they see from major league pitching. Good examples around MLB are Jackie Bradley, Jr. of the Red Sox and Billy “I’m the fastest man in baseball” Hamilton for the Reds.
Miller is swinging at too many pitches outside the strike zone, currently around 40%, and as a result he’s striking out too much, roughly once for every three at bats. This should improve, as he only struck out 15.5 percent of the time last year, or roughly every six at bats. I don’t think he has as much power as he’s shown early this season, but I do think he could hit 15 to 18 HR’s over a full season, very respectable for a middle infielder in today’s pitcher dominant MLB. Remember they’re not all Robinson Cano.
Miller is a Good Defender
And his defense definitely plays in the big leagues. So far this season, in again an admittedly small sample size, Miller’s UZR/150 (essentially runs saved above the average player at that position over a 150 game projection) is 21.7. That number is very similar to that of acknowledged glove wizard Andrelton Simmons of the Atlanta Braves. Now I’m not saying Miller is as good as Simmons, but compared to future Hall of Famer, Derek Jeter’s, lifetime UZR/150 of -6.7, he’s pretty good.
He’s a Keeper
ZiPs (U) projects Miller at .257/.311/.399 with 17 HR’s, 89 Runs, 68 RBIs, and 12 SB. If you play Fantasy Baseball, you’d take that all day long at SS, and if you’re the Mariners you have to believe you’ve found a long term solution in the middle of the infield with Cano and Miller.