Detroit Tigers spring training is just around the corner. In the next few weeks, you will see the various position battles come into play down in Lakeland. One position that does not seem settled yet is first base. We have discussed the idea of Detroit resigning CJ Cron or moving Jeimer Candelario to first but for now, it does not seem definitive at this point.
One of the names that are still on the free-agent market is left-handed-hitting Brad Miller. Miller, who just turned 31 years old back in October, was playing in St. Louis last season putting in a slash line of .232/.357/.451 with an OPS + of 120 in 48 games. Miller is known for his versatility, playing shortstop, second, third, left and right field, and first base in his time in the majors.
The word “versatility” has come up so much this off-season with the Tigers that if you are familiar with Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, it feels like the secret word.
AJ Hinch spoke back to the press in December about having position versatility and having it on the current roster. Based on the comments, Miller would fit because he could fit anywhere that is needed.
"“Being able to maneuver the players around the field and have them still be good allows me to put any combination of players on the field that gives us the best chance to win,” Hinch said. “It allows Al (Avila, Tigers general manager) to sign any player that he wants, and we can move guys around. It’s really important to not have too many guys just be able to play every single day at one position.”"
Brad Miller’s Statcast dive
While Miller does not fit the typical corner infielder with consistent power numbers, (30 home runs back in 2016 with Tampa is his career-high) his 2020 numbers were in the high percentile in multiple categories.
- Hard Hit 73%
- Barrel 87%
- xSLG 77%
- xwOBA 87%
Something worth noting. In 2019, he faced 659 pitches and placed 109 balls in play and barrel up 14. In 2020, facing 705 pitches and placing 97 batted balls in play, he had 13 barrels for a small uptick in barrel % to 13.4. He walked at a 14% clip in 2020 and that would put him among the team leaders for the Tigers and that is in 120 plate appearances in 2020 so it is a good sample size.
Getting back to power numbers, his ISO numbers pop out. In 2019, his ISO was .305 and in 2020, over .218. Now, why does that stand out? He was under .200 in his time in Seattle until he got to Tampa in 2016 where he had that big season before going back to an ISO of .139 in 2017. To be fair, he struggled with injuries that season that brought him back down to earth from his 2016 numbers.
Defensively, he does not grade well at short but since we are looking at him for first base, he could split duties with Miguel and he also play the outfield if an injury occurs. In his time in the majors, Miller has played over 611 innings at first that span over 75 games.
Overall, Miller has put up two 2 WAR seasons since he arrived in the majors in 2013. For a one-year deal to shore up the infield or even the outfield, Miller could be a good option for Detroit. All of us on the staff are fans of Travis Shaw and Chris suggested him as a free agent signing so that also fits the versatility motif Detroit has been suggested will be the norm in 2021.
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