By Rich Arleo
Brad Miller, Shortstop, Seattle Mariners
2013 season (minors): 68 G, 257 AB, .319 BA, 12 HR, 53 RBI, 6 SB, .920 OPS
2013 season (majors): 76 G, 306 AB, .265 BA, 8 HR, 36 RBI, 5 SB, .737 OPS
The Mariners made the biggest splash of the offseason when they signed second baseman Robinson Cano to an enormous 10-year, $240 million contract. Cano is locked in at second for the next decade, but the M’s hope they’ve found Cano’s double-play partner for the next decade as well in Brad Miller.
Drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft, Miller split his first full season in 2012 between High-A and Double-A. In total, he hit .334/.410/.512 with 15 home runs, 63 RBIs and 23 steals that year. Miller stuck at Double-A for the start of the 2013 season, but was then brought up to Triple-A Tacoma. There, he hit .356/.426/.596 in just 26 games, pretty much forcing the Mariners to call him up and insert him in their depleted lineup.
While he wasn’t the Mariners’ savior last season, he did offer some hope. Miller showed off his plus-power from the shortstop position with eight home runs and 36 RBIs in 76 games, but struggled to get on base with a .318 OBP.
The Cano signing was an obvious no-brainer for the M’s, but it did leave them with a bit of a dilemma in the middle infield. While Miller is the front runner to take over at shortstop, fellow young infielder Nick Franklin made the move from second base to shortstop to compete with Miller. Franklin, himself a first round pick in 2009, had 12 home runs and 45 RBIs in 102 major league games last season, but hit just .225 with a dreadful .303 OBP.
This spring, Miller has shined, hitting .438 (21-for-48) with four home runs, four triples and 10 RBIs. Meanwhile, Franklin is hitting .244 (10-for-41) with a home run and three doubles and six RBIs. The consensus is that Miller will earn the job while Franklin has been linked to numerous trade rumors and speculation that he could be moved to the outfield.
Miller doesn’t have much more than 15-homer potential in the bigs, but he was a .334 hitter in the minors. So the Mariners hope he can improve on the average from last season and draw a few more walks. Seattle’s offense ranked 22nd last year with 624 runs scored, and their .237 team average was second worst in the league. The team needs all the help they can get in their lineup. And while Cano is a start, Miller could provide him with some valuable help in 2014.
Next up: Jonathan Villar, Houston Astros