One of my favorite prospects is shortstop Brad Miller of the Seattle Mariners. I like him a lot, enough that I rated him at Number 48 on my 2013 Top 150 Prospects List. As far as I know, none of the other major prospect lists have Miller in their Top 100, making my opinion a definite outlier.
So what's up with that? Why do I like this guy more than most people?
I have a three-part answer for you. First, here is the comment I wrote about Miller in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book:
Brad Miller, SS, Seattle Mariners
Bats: L Throws: R HT: 6-2 WT: 185 DOB: October 18, 1989
Brad Miller was drafted in the second round last year, 62nd overall, out of Clemson. Despite unconventional hitting mechanics, he was a machine in college, showing superior plate discipline, gap power, and good speed on the bases. He looked excellent with the bat in two weeks of pro ball, and it's expected that he'll be a batting average/OBP force as he moves up. The main question is defense. He has a good arm, but is error-prone, especially with throws, and a lot of scouts doubt that he can stick at shortstop. He made four errors in his first 14 pro games and didn't show a lot of range, but so far there is no word about him moving to second base. If I were
the Mariners, I'd let him play short for awhile to see if he can work his issues out. I'm a fan of the bat. Grade B-.
Miller hit .339/.412/.524 in 97 games in the California League last year, followed by a .320/.406/.476 mark in 40 games in the Double-A Southern League, leading to this comment from the 2013 book:
Brad Miller is one of my favorite prospects. A second round pick out of Clemson in 2011, Miller has a fast bat from the left side. He makes contact, controls the strike zone very well, and shows more power potential than most middle infielders. His numbers in the Cal League were not an illusionary a result of High Desert, and he continued raking after being promoted to Double-A (wRC+ 151, OPS +24 percent, SEC .326 in the Southern League). If anything, people are still underestimating his bat. Miller also has better-than-average speed and is an effective stealer. His main problem is defense. He has sufficient range and arm strength to handle shortstop, but remains error-prone on routine plays, particularly throws. He showed some improvement with this late in the year, and if I were the Mariners I'd leave him at shortstop as long as possible. Even if he moves to second base, Miller's hitting skills make him a premium property. Grade B+.
2013 is going well so far: he reportedly made a positive impression on Mariners brass in spring training, and he's hitting .400/.432/.686 in Double-A. He doesn't have much to prove at that level really, and we should see him in Triple-A later in the season, if not the majors.
So what gives? Why doesn't Miller get more press? There is certainly nothing wrong with his track record. He was a high-profile and very successful college player. He was an early-round draft pick. He's been excellent in pro ball so far. His makeup is reputed to be outstanding. He's not some slug out there; he's a good athlete. He's got tools, he's got numbers, he's got intangibles. What's the problem?
His defense is one issue; he has the tools for shortstop, but still makes too many errors. But is that enough to keep him off prospect lists? I don't think so. Even if you see him as a second baseman, his bat should still be very valuable and he should still rank highly. I don't think that's the problem.
Is it the stigma of having put up big numbers in High Desert, where pitchers go to die? Maybe, but he's hit well everywhere, so anyone dismissing him because of the California League is making a mistake. I don't think that's it either.
I think the problem might boil down to the fact that Miller was compared to Craig Counsell in college. That comp was made because Miller's batting stance visually appears somewhat similar (although not as exaggerated) as Counsell's. They are also about the same size physically.
The comp might make sense on those levels, but it is very misleading in terms of the kind of player that Miller can be. Not that there's anything wrong with Counsell: he did have a 16 year career, but Miller's offensive upside is higher than Counsell's was. Miller has more bat speed and pop, and has certainly been more successful in the minors than Counsell was.
My theory is that the Counsell comp lodged itself in baseball consciousness, causing some folks to dismiss Miller as just a future utilityman. I believe he can be much more than that.