Name: Brad Miller
Draft: 18th Round, 2006
Position: First Baseman
Weight: 245 lbs
History: Brad Miller is really large. No one who passes him on the street would be surprised to learn that he is a power-hitting first baseman. He put up some incredible offensive numbers in college, and has continued to display extreme power using a wooden bat in the pros. Last year, Miller paced the entire Diamondbacks organization in home runs, something no other South Bend player has done due to the cavernous dimensions of Coveleski Stadium. Those 22 dingers were also good for second best in the Midwest League .
Why doesn't Miller rank higher than #41? Although he played in a pitcher's park and a pitcher's league, he was one of the oldest players at Low-A Ball, having turned 24 last June. Also, while he's still showing tremendous pop, Miller isn't hitting for the high batting averages that he did when he used an aluminum bat.
"He's found out that for a big, strong kid like that, the right approach is getting in a strong position, and [letting] whatever happens, happens," explained Mark Haley, Miller's manager at South Bend. "You have to learn to hit before you learn to hit home runs, and that's the transition he's going through right now."
Still, Miller's season warranted a promotion in August, when Triple-A first baseman Chris Carter was traded to the Washington Nationals. The main reason every first base prospect did not advance at that time relates to the postseason. Both the Silver Hawks and the Hi-A Visalia Oaks played into September, and while Miller would certainly been able to help the Oaks, the organization did not draft a slugging first baseman who could have helped the Hawks. Things worked out pretty well the way they did, with Miller going 7-for 18 (.389) with a homer and six RBI in the postseason.
The Diamondbacks also kept Miller at South Bend for an attendance boost. Miller played four years at Ball State University in his home town of Muncie, which is less than a three-hour drive from Coveleski Stadium. Friends, family, and fans would make the trip to see Miller do some mashing. He rarely disappointed, batting .294 with 53 RBI in his home games.
|Minor League Totals||727||99||188||38||4||33||144||0||1||85||161||.259||.339||.458|
Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube
Batting and Power: The power numbers are obviously already there, but with the league, park, and age factors warping them somewhat, we asked Haley how his power figures to translate at the major league level.
"When he gets his swing right; he gets consistent at his approach, he could have 55-60 power (on the 20-80 scale), legitimately," assured Haley, who isn't one for hyperbole. "He hit one ball over the Batter's Eye at South Bend, something that only Mark Reynolds and a couple of other guys have done. That shows you the raw power. Getting it into consistent big league power, that's what we're developing."
The veteran skipper then compared Miller to Cesar Nicholas, a Diamondback prospect who put up even better numbers than Miller did as a Silver Hawk in 2005. Nicholas struggled with the bat in 2007 as he moved across the diamond to learn the third base position.
"[Miller] definitely goes the opposite way a lot better. He's really worked his way into being a smart hitter. I was real happy with how he improved his balance."
Although Miller appears laid back, he works as hard as anyone to better his game. Miller told us that he had been working on his plate coverage, utilizing his long arms. As he improves his mechanics, it's going to be difficult for opposing pitchers to put it in a spot where the 6-foot-5 Miller cannot reach it.
Base Running and Speed: Brad Miller is no faster than you would expect someone of his size to be. He recognizes that taking extra bases isn't going to be part of his game, and usually runs judiciously on the base paths.
Defense: His defense is another matter. Miller may not be able to beat many people in a footrace, but he is extremely quick and agile in the field. We saw him make one diving stop to his right that saved the game in extra innings. Few major leaguers would have been able to react that quickly to the smash.
Miller's height works to his advantage on infield throws, as he can reach off-target throws that smaller first baseman must abandon the bag for. His quickness and agility also aid him in scooping balls out of the dirt.
"He can flat out pick it," Haley exclaimed. "Our infielders love him because he saved their butts."
Major League Clone: Wes Helms
Prediction: Even with the trades of both Chris Carters, Conor Jackson, Javier Brito, and Bryan Byrne block Miller's path to Phoenix. He hits both righties and lefties well, and plays good defense, so he should be starting first baseman material for a team somewhere if he can continue to improve.
"We'll see how he does with the curveball," Haley cautioned. "Near the end, there, he was hitting offspeeds a lot better. There's no doubt his work ethic will be right there where it needs to be."
ETA: Miller will begin 2008 in Visalia. He's going to put up unbelievable power numbers in the California League and graduate to Double-A by mid-season. The advanced braking pitches there will provide Miller with a challenge and ultimately determine his future. If he comports himself well there, we could see him in a major league uniform as early as 2009. Otherwise, he may spend his career in the minors.
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