Brad Miller – Why Now?
Ever since Dave’s post a few days ago urging the M’s to call up Brad Miller, it’s been discussed throughout the M’s blogosphere. Alex Carson of Prospect Insider/Lookout Landing and I talked briefly about it on Tuesday. I’ve seen quite a few fans question the move, given the question marks surrounding his defense. But ultimately, this is the right move. Why?
* Miller’s made a number of errors, generally on routine plays. OK, you know who else used to do that? Nick Franklin. I haven’t seen Miller play as much as I saw Franklin, but I saw several more mental lapses from Franklin than I have from Miller. This isn’t about picking on Franklin as it is pointing out that mental lapses *can* be minimized in MLB. The stakes are higher, the fields are better, and there’s more time to prepare and less time spent waiting for connecting flights and bus trips. This isn’t handwaving; Miller needs to work at this, but this a fundamentally different situation from a hitter who has trouble with breaking balls or good velo. This isn’t a skills issue. MLB is *brutal* on kids with deficient skills, and it *can* be brutal on those who aren’t able to focus 100% of the time. But it’s often a good environment to improve focus as well. From what I’ve seen, he’s got plenty of skill to play SS at the big league level, and I never would’ve said that about Nick Franklin.
* Why? Because Miller now gets to learn from Nick Franklin, a guy who’s become a *better* fielder since his call-up, and he gets to work with one of the best defensive shortstops in the game in Brendan Ryan. I think we all have this image of Ryan as a joker, as a free spirit who wants to do imitations instead of work on his craft, but that’s not entirely accurate. There’s a reason the M’s kept Brad Miller with the big league club so long this March, and there’s probably a reason they wanted Miller to play 2B alongside Ryan. Ryan has a lot to pass on in terms of preparation and learning hitter and pitcher tendencies, and Miller will benefit from that a heck of a lot more than he will from fielding a few more grounders in Albuquerque or Salt Lake.
* Ultimately, because the M’s need to see if he can hit. Miller reached base in every game he played for Tacoma, so I’m going to assume a batting line better than Ryan’s is a given. But if he’s able to approach what Franklin’s done, then that really changes how the M’s approach the offseason. The M’s haven’t had offense from the position in a loooong time, and what better time to get a sense of their 2014 starting line-up than now? The season’s over from a contention point of view.
Welcome to the show, Brad.
P.S. – I’m indebted to Ryan Divish for point 2 above; Divish saw how Ryan’s preparation in the spring impacted Miller, and talked to me about how it could change Miller’s focus. He also pointed to bench coach Robby Thompson, whom Divish thinks has helped Nick Franklin)
P.P.S – Dave’s post on Miller’s call-up is here.