Who is Brad Miller and why should you let him into your heart? As the centerpiece of the first big move of the offseason, Miller figures to be a key piece to the Rays plans going forward, whether you like it or not.
The Mariners selected the Windermere, FL product in the second round out of Clemson University, where Miller won the 2011 Brooks Wallace Award (top shortstop).
Miller moved quickly through the minors showcasing some excellent hitting. In his three seasons in the M’s minor league system, Miller posted a slash line of .334/.409/.516 with 27 home runs, 56 doubles, and 10 triples (adding in 30 stolen bases as well).
In 2013, after just 26 games in Triple-A, Brad Miller got the call to the show. He ended his rookie season in the majors with a 106 wRC+, .154 ISO, and 25 extra-base hits, good for a 1.8 fWAR.
Miller quickly became a fan favorite for the Mariners. Stirrup socks, no batting gloves, and a goofy demeanor? Add in some ridiculous hair, and you got the perfect Tampa Bay Ray.
The short stop's 2014 and 2015 seasons also showed off some nice power (.144 ISO), but there was an increased K% (over 20%). Miller also possesses a drastic lefty/righty split (57 wRC+ vs LHP, and 113 wRC+ vs RHP). Of his 29 major league HRs, only two came against lefty pitching.
Still, despite his ups and downs (and possible need for a platoon partner), Miller has more than enough offense for a shortstop. That is, if he can stick at shortstop.
But is he a Shortstop?
Defense is the key to how successful Brad Miller will be here in Tampa. Reports on his ability to stick at short are split. He has shown some real slick glove work, and a positive UZR there for his career (1.9 UZR). It characterizes him as a player with strong range, but who is a bit error prone.
On the other side of the coin, Miller has a career -9 DRS and committed 39 errors these past three seasons. Although, to put that in perspective for the Rays, Asdrubal Cabrera posted a -7 DRS last season.
Tom Tango's Fan Scouting Report, over the past two years, has rated Miller as a slightly below average defender, and it agrees with UZR as far as the components are concerned. Mariners fans liked his first step and speed, as well as his arm strength. They rated his instincts as average, but his hands and throwing accuracy as below average.
Here's an example of that first step, range, and arm strength. I'll let you find examples of suspect hands and offline throws on your own.
In 2015 Miller was moved to a super-utility role with the M’s -- tying his acquisition to reports of "the next Ben Zobrist," as if there could be such a thing -- but the experiment did not work out as expected. And really, what should you expect when you move a guy who's weakness is errors all around the diamond to positions he's not used to playing?
Miller had an abysmal season in the outfield, posting negative numbers (-13 DRS, -14.4 UZR, and a whopping -61.1 UZR/150) and generally seemed lost by all accounts. This was particularly evident in center field, which luckily won’t be an issue here, as we've got a guy for that position already.
It's Miller Time!
Whether or not Miller can stick long term at shortstop will be a debate that we will be discussing all season long. At just 26 years old, there is hope for Miller to grow and improve his consistency in the field. Add in a platoon partner for lefty pitching (paging Timmy Beckham), and the Rays have some exciting options at shortstop.