No, he’s not going to keep this up, since as I type this, he has a 138 wRC+, which is six points higher than Ken Griffey Jr’s career mark of 132. 44 plate appearances don’t tell you anything about anyone, really. Remember how awesome Vernon Wells and Yuniesky Betancourt were back in April? Miller could still have a serious flaw that we just haven’t seen yet. Dustin Ackley is a constant reminder of that. Jumping to conclusions based on a few weeks of performance is simply not a good idea.
But, yeah, Brad Miller. He’s not really doing anything in Seattle that he didn’t do in the minors. He’s drawing walks, making enough contact, and hitting line drives. He’s slugging .487 without yet hitting his first Major League home run. He runs really well, and is going to add value on the bases. His defense hasn’t even been bad, much less horrifyingly unplayable.
If we were going to pick nits, the strikeout rate could be problematic in the long term, especially against left-handed pitchers. Guys who strike out a decent amount generally need to hit for power to offset the reduced number of balls in play, and Miller’s probably not going to be a big time power guy. There aren’t a ton of players who strike out 20% of the time, hit few home runs, and are still productive hitters. Miller’s faced almost entirely right-handed pitching so far, and he could be susceptible to posting some significant platoon splits, which would bring down his overall offensive numbers as a full-time player.
But as long as Miller can stick at shortstop, he doesn’t have to be a great hitter. An average hitter is a pretty spectacular shortstop as long as he can defend the position, and there are plenty of reasons to think that Miller could easily be that kind of average hitter while playing the position. If he pulls a Kyle Seager or Nick Franklin and hits for more power than you’d expect from his frame, being an above average hitter isn’t out of the question. He certainly hits the ball hard enough to envision a lot of doubles, and maybe some of those will eventually turn into home runs.
We’re dealing with less than two weeks of baseball games, so there’s still plenty of time for the Brad Miller experiment to go terribly wrong in the second half. And it might. Baseball is weird that way. But he hasn’t given us any reason to think a total collapse is likely, and he’s shown more than enough to think that he could be the long term answer at shortstop for the organization.
Justin Smoak‘s latest power surge and Raul Ibanez‘s hilarious age defying season have gotten more headlines, but replacing Brendan Ryan with Brad Miller is one of the primary reasons this offense has looked pretty good over the last few weeks. As I write this, Miller’s wOBA is 130 points higher than Ryan’s, which is basically the equivalent of replacing Justin Smoak with Miguel Cabrera. He’s going to regress, and he might even regress a lot, but Brad Miller is showing enough that I think the Mariners can plan on him starting at shortstop on Opening Day next year.
He might play himself out of that job with more exposure to big league pitching, or the defensive problems from his minor league days might reappear, but right now, Brad Miller looks like a real franchise building block.