Brad Miller: Right Fielder Of The Future?


Ever since trading Michael Saunders to the Toronto Blue Jays, the Seattle Mariners have had a glaring need for a right fielder. One notes that they had a perfectly good right fielder before the trade, and that perhaps the team would have been better off keeping their incumbent, you know? Saunders has been an above-average hitter for three straight years! He’s a good defender! He’s a homegrown fan favorite! WHY’D YOU HAVE TO DO IT, JACK??

Okay, so what’s done is done, and as silly and frustrating as it is, the reality stands: the Mariners need to find a right fielder, because right now their right fielder is James Jones. Jones is just a slower Terrance Gore at this stage of his career, and so one sees why this is unacceptable. Base-stealing specialists are neat, but they’re not starting right fielders. Especially not when they can’t hit and stink in the field.

So the M’s have a huge hole in the outfield, or maybe two holes if depth’s your thing. Melky Cabrera, their top free market target, just signed with the Chicago White Sox. They could still pursue an Alex Rios or someone of that ilk, but a trade appears to be growing increasingly likely. This article from Greg Johns lists some “creative” solutions to the M’s self-imposed problem. But none of them are the most creative solution.

Okay, so maybe there’s a more creative solution out there than “stick Brad Miller in right field.” But that’s the possibility least mentioned, it seems, and it’s also a proposition that borders on outlandish. Brad Miller is a young shortstop. He’s also trade bait due to his (alleged) redundancy on the roster. These qualities make him an odd fit, and a perfect fit.

The thing about young shortstops is that they’re playing up the middle because they have the physical ability to play anywhere. You stick the guy at short because it’s the hardest defensive position to fill, save for catcher, and when he gets bigger and clunkier you stick him at third or in an outfield corner. Except Miller’s not clunky. He’s not even in his physical prime yet, and so it stands to reason that he has a chance to be an above-average outfielder right away.

Why Miller moving to the outfield and not Chris Taylor? Defense, for one. Miller’s a good defensive shortstop, but Taylor is potentially great, and so he’s the one you keep there when given the choice to use a surplus to fill a hole. Miller’s best tool might well be his arm, which is just about the most important thing for a right fielder. Ignoring his history as a shortstop, Miller profiles as the kind of guy who could play a nice right field.

And then there’s the offense factor. Taylor, obviously, was a better hitter than Miller last year. But where Miller got bad luck on every bounce, Taylor was sporting a BABIP that was way, way inflated. And then there’s the point that even during his sophomore slump year, Miller was swatting long balls. It’s an open question as to whether Chris Taylor will ever hit one of those in his life.

Miller’s offensive ceiling is way higher, and he’s got power Taylor could never dream of. So stick him in the outfield, where his bat is more likely to be good enough to play every day at the position. Taylor can’t hit like an outfielder, and he’s the better defender. Keep him at short, and if he falls on his face you’ve got a perfectly good Brad Miller to take over for him.

Miller would serve as both a starting outfielder and middle infield insurance, kind of like the role we’d like to think Dustin Ackley currently plays. Best yet, this scenario doesn’t involve the exchanging of cost-controlled youth and upside for a highly-paid aging slugger with no legs under him. Those cost-savings will come in handy next time the Mariners want to buy a star.

So there’s the sales pitch: Brad Miller, your 2015 Seattle Mariners’ starting right fielder. Hell, go get your Rios anyways and call it a platoon. You can never have too much depth out there, as the Los Angeles Dodgers showed last season. Keep the young, cheap core together and avoid overpaying for a risky player past his prime or a one-year rental. And that’s how you conjure a right fielder with pop out of thin air.