Rays SS Depth: 4 Will Battle for Starting Job
Sep 22, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Seattle Mariners shortstop Brad Miller (5) hits a two-run home run in the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
It’s funny how quickly fans and media want to tear down new arrivals before ever giving them a shot to earn the job. This seems to be the case with Miller, as we can see that much of the talk in rumors is centred around improving the SS position, and not improving the overall team hitting. I’m fairly certain the Rays thought they were shoring up SS by acquiring Miller. I’m not saying they were handing him the job, but even if they do acquire Baez, it doesn’t mean Miller is out as SS. Baez would still have to outplay Miller, and that’s no guarantee.
Here’s a rundown of Miller’s past – present – future.
Brad Miller came into Seattle as a versatile player and was never given the chance to get comfortable at the plate – or on the field – until last season. When he did get that chance, he made the most of it and his stats indicate the uptick in performance.
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After getting the playing time he needed to become comfortable in the first 2/3 of the season, mostly due to a Chris Taylor injury, Miller had his best 2 months of his career, finishing with
in August and
in September/October – a 45 game stretch.
Other notes I made above include his historical slow starts in April and May – neither of which bode well for him winning a job out of the gates, his strength in a possibly splitting time with someone who mashes LHP due to his performance vs RHP, and finally how great his range played at 2B in 2015. Should the Rays decide to move Logan Forsythe while his value is highest, having Miller man 2B may be the best option. It also made me wonder about Forsythe’s chances of manning SS, but….no.
Miller comes in needing to prove himself on a club that just lost its incumbent SS in Asdrubal Cabrera and desperately need at least average offensive output from the position. He’s healthy as could be, he knows the Rays may look to use him in a Zobrist type role if things don’t work out, and he’s got the most to prove to everyone in Tampa since they know him least.
Thankfully for Miller, he played in the A.L. and already knows the majority of the pitching he’s going to be facing. Also, with the most playing time he’s ever received helping him out, he may be ready to come out swinging early on instead of getting out to a slow start. Finally, with the trade being completed so early in the offseason, he’s getting a chance to get acclimated to his surroundings, which should work in his favour as well.
This is pretty much all projections. Let’s see, Baseball-Reference projects him to hit .252/.318/.403 with 12 HR (37 XBH) through 437 AB and to chip in with 8 SB. The more scientific Steamer has him hitting .252/.320/.394 with 11 HR (35 XBH), good enough for a 2.2 WAR. They have him in the same range of AB with 478 PA.
What I think they fail to see is this: all 5 Orioles and Yankees starters are RHP, the Jays have 1 LHP (J.A. Happ) who is very hittable, and only Boston has 2 nasty LHP in David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez, possibly 3 if Henry Owens cracks the rotation. My point is that the A.L. East is extremely RHP heavy in terms of rotations. Also, a LHB like him should have an easier time hitting HRs in Toronto, Boston, and NY than he did in Oakland, Seattle, and Anaheim. That in itself should be a boost to his numbers.
With his doing better against RHP, his best season behind him and approaching the prime hitting years, I think Brad Miller could reach a new level with the Rays. A fresh start never hurt anyone, and I have a feeling he’s really going to enjoy the atmosphere and camaraderie on this team. I expect him to exceed those expectations by a slight margin.
With all of this in mind, is it fair to ask everyone to give Brad Miller a fair shot to earn the position in 2016? I certainly think he’s well-worth the shot.
Moving on to the next candidate!
Next: So much talent, so little consistency