I would like to preface this post with this: This morning, I woke up to a call from my sister that Brad Miller had been traded to the Cubs in exchange for Welington Castillo. Thankfully, my brother was just playing on a trick on her because he knows she has an unhealthy crush on Miller. On we go!
In life, it is valuable to be versatile. In baseball, it is also valuable to be versatile. It gives a team flexibility in the lineup, and it protects the team from injuries and bad performance. Teams highly value players such as Mark McLemore and Ben Zobrist, who are known as “super utility” players. (Don’t let Mark McLemore know you called him a super utility player, though.) Apparently, teams also value bad players who are bad at multiple positions, a la Willie Bloomquist. Lately, Brad Miller has been transitioning into something of a super utility player, and this is a good thing. As I said before, versatility is valuable, and Brad Miller certainly has the athleticism to handle learning several positions. As it stands, I think Brad Miller could become one of the better shortstops in the MLB, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to correct his throwing mechanics anytime soon, thus zapping his value defensively (and consequently overall). Regardless, Miller is currently tied for 8th in WAR at shortstop in the MLB, thus prompting his doubters to suck it. In terms of wRC+, Brad Miller ranks 6th at shortstop with a sturdy 132 wRC+.
B-Rad’s value comes in his bat, and it always has. He’s got the yips, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to completely iron itself out anytime soon, or maybe ever. Enter Chris Taylor: defensive extraordinaire. Miller and Taylor own two very different skillsets, and to me, Miller’s is the much sexier package. Much about Miller is unconventional. His hitting mechanics, his throwing motion, the way he runs, you name it. Taylor provides the steady more reliable option, Miller provides the upside. They’re as opposite as it gets.
Last season, many speculated that it wouldn’t be outlandish if Miller came out of his rookie year and followed it with a 5 WAR season in his sophomore season. Not so! Miller struggled to hit for average, or power, for that matter. Thus far this season, he’s slashing a sexy .264/.328/.500, and boy does he look legitimate. His BABIP is resting at an ideal .296. This falls in line with what is expected out of a normal MLB player, and it also falls in line with rookie season Brad Miller, whose BABIP stood at .294.
Assuming that the Mariners aren’t giving up on Brad Miller, shortstop, getting him experience in the outfield is exciting. Chris Taylor gives the Mariners flexibility to let Miller DH and play left field. It also gives him a shot at claiming the shortstop job, and he doesn’t have to wither away in Tacoma! The more reps Miller gets at different positions, the better chance he has of sticking somewhere. As a shortstop is where he has the most value. As a consolation, center field wouldn’t be the worst thing ever. Austin Jackson is set to be a free agent after this season, and honestly I don’t really care. I loved swapping AJax for Nick Franklin, but the one good thing he’s done as a Mariner is barely beat out of a double play for a game winning fielder’s choice in game 161 to keep our playoff hopes alive. Seriously. He hit a weak groundball to second base that, if feeded to the shortstop accurately, probably should have gotten him out.
This offseason Jack Zduriencik said the Mariners would be “getting creative” to fill the gaping hole that Michael Saunders left us with in right field. This led Jeff Sullivan and many others to speculate that Brad Miller would be featured as a near-everyday player in right field. It turned out that Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano would pair in right field, which makes me question if Zduriencik was posturing to acquire Ruggiano and Smith for cheaper or if he doesn’t know what the word “creative” means. Whatever. As an infielder, I don’t have a ton of confidence in Miller. He makes me nervous whenever I see him cock his arm back to throw to first, and it never feels like he’s going to come up with the ball despite his solid range and athleticism. As a prospective outfielder, my hopes are high for him. In 2013, we saw the beginning of Dustin Ackley as an outfielder. Initially, he looked extremely unnatural and to be honest he still doesn’t look quite like he was born to be an outfielder. Nowadays, Ack grades out very positively as a fielder and for the most part he passes the eye test. Ackley and Andy Van Slyke have worked very diligently to transform him into a serviceable fielder. In 2014, Ackley finished the year with a DRS of 7, and UZR/150 of 8.8 in left field. The sample size is rather small, but I feel comfortable calling Ackley average in left field. Brad Miller can hack it in the outfield. I can feel it.
In 2016, the hope is that Brad Miller will be manning shortstop or center field. Regardless of his position, the Mariners don’t have a center fielder in the system. James Jones is in the system, but like I said, the Mariners don’t have a center fielder in the system. The two things you worry about are preserving Miller’s value, and where he is of most value to the team. Right now he is of most value as Ben Zobrist, but unfortunately he is Brad Miller. So now, we groom Miller to play the outfield while seeing if he continues to throw balls wide of poor Logan Morrison. My personal belief is that Miller can play anywhere on the diamond that isn’t pitcher or a catcher. In a literal sense he could play at pitcher or catcher but boy that wouldn’t be fun to watch. Remember that time Miguel Olivo was warming up to pitch in a game but we never got to see it? Dammit. Miguel Olivo always finds a way to creep his way into paragraphs.
Here’s to Brad Miller finding his inner Zobrist (with more power). Or alternatively, his inner Zen Brobrist.