Prior to the 2016 season, Brad Miller had been viewed as something of a tweener – an average defensive shortstop at best whose offensive potential never quite translated into consistent production at the MLB level. The Seattle Mariners finally grew tired of Miller’s inconsistency and lack of improvement and traded him away in a six player deal to the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason. For the first few months of the season, Miller looked like the same player that he was during the majority of his stint in Seattle, producing a .241/.288/.459 batting line with 35 runs, 14 homers, 32 RBI, and 4 steals in the first half (312 plate appearances). Since the All-Star Break, Miller has looked like a completely different player, producing a .305/.385/.656 line with 24 runs, 11 homers, 30 RBI, and 2 steals in just 148 plate appearances. So what in the world is going on here? Has Miller finally reached his offensive potential or has it merely been a strong month and a half for him?

Let’s take a look at Miller’s profile to determine if his recent surge is just a blip in the radar or a sign of things to come. Here are a few thoughts and observations:

He’s hitting the ball in the air more often. More specifically, Miller is trading a large chunk of ground balls for line drives. While his fly ball percentage has increased by 1.7% (from 35.1% to 36.8%) from the first half of the season to the second, he’s cut his ground ball percentage by more than 10% (from 49.1% to 38.9%) while his line drive percentage has increased a whopping 8.4% (from 15.8% to 24.2%) during that same time period. With all of these extra line drives, it stands to reason that…

He’s hitting the ball harder than ever. Miller’s hard hit percentage has increased from 31.8% in the first half to 39.0% in the second half, a 7.2% improvement. He’s also cut his infield fly ball rate from a respectable 9% to an impressive 5.7% over span as well, indicating that his quality of contact has improved across the board. A big reason for these improved results seems to be the fact that…

He’s added a leg kick to increase his power production.  Miller has tweaked his batting stance this season so that he’s a bit more closed and his bat begins in a more upright position than in previous years, but the change that’s made the biggest difference for him has been the leg kick that he’s added to his approach. It’s given him more time to see the ball and allowed him to drive the ball more effectively to all fields. This ability to see the ball for an extra split second might help to explain why…

He’s been more patient than ever. Miller has always had solid plate discipline, especially for a young player (as his career 8.2% BB% shows), but his walk rate dipped to just 6.4% during the first half of this season. Since implementing the changes to his approach at the plate, his walk rate has jumped to 10.1% during the second half. This more patient approach has led to a slightly higher strikeout rate (K% has jumped from 22.1% to 24.3%), but the improved power and on-base skills seems to be worth the tradeoff thus far.

Bottom line: With a few small tweaks to his batting stance and overall approach to hitting, Miller has transformed himself from a moderate, inconsistent power/speed threat into a full blown slugger. While I’m not sure that he should be penciled in for 30+ homers a year moving forward, he seems to be a solid bet for totals in the mid-20s, especially since the 26 year old is in the midst of his prime power years. The 1B/SS/OF eligibility is pretty sweet as well. Enjoy the power and the counting stats from the Rays unexpected new cleanup hitter.

Final Verdict:

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  1. True and Correct says:
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    He’s been 1 of my m.v.p.’s this year.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @True and Correct: Yeah, he’s finally had that breakout season that many people were expecting a couple of years ago. I don’t think that anyone expected him to hit 30 homers though.

  2. J-FOH says:
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    High level work again Mr. Magoo!

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @J-FOH: Thanks!

  3. Gregjeffries says:
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    Thanks for the great read Magoo!
    Was just offered K. Seager, B. Miller and Quintana for my Xander. I’m tied for first but could use a reliable SP down the stretch. Do you like this deal? (15 team rotis keep 5 forever)

    Was also thinking about countering with Seager/Price for Xander but the Miller/Quintana deal might be sweeter.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Gregjeffries: Xander is quite valuable in a keeper, but that’s a pretty good haul in a 15 teamer. I’d probably do the Quintana deal if you need SP help.

      • Gregjeffries says:
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        Thanks! Yeah, it’d be tough to lose Xander in a keeper, but with my pitching staff struggles recently – Matz, Lackey, Duffy, Hammel, Salazar… I’m pretty desperate for reliable SP help. At least SS looks pretty deep next year!

        • Big Magoo

          Big Magoo says:
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          @Gregjeffries: Yeah, I believe in playing for championships, and that trade should help you this year. It’d hurt to lose Xander, but I think it’s worth it for the pitching upgrade. Good luck!

  4. Noam says:
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    Hey Magoo! What three pitchers would you roll out next week for me? Wins are important

    Kevin Gausman vNYY
    Jason Hammel vSF
    Musgrove vOAK, @TEX
    Seth Lugo vMIA, vWAS
    Luke Weaver @MIL
    Chad Kuhl @CHC
    Jeff Samardzija @CHC

    Thanks!

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Noam: If wins are a priority, that rules out Samardzija and Kuhl. A one-start rookie SP on the road is risky, so that rules Weaver out. I’d probably go with Hammel, Musgrove, and Gausman out of the other four. Lugo is a streamer-type, and I’m not convinced that his second start is locked in.

  5. Where do butterflies go when it rains says:
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    Mr Magoo. I in a league counting wins and quality starts. That being said. I have both Phelps and Colon facing each other this Weds in NY. I’m thinking I’m dropping Plelps and sticking with the Bartolo at home. What do you think? Thanks

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Where do butterflies go when it rains: You could start both of them, but I’d definitely favor Colon there if you’re planning on choosing between them.

  6. Where do butterflies go when it rains says:
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    Who would you rather have in a keeper league? Xander for $15 or Story for $7. Thanks

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Where do butterflies go when it rains: Depends on your scoring categories and other league specifics like inflation, unlimited/limited keeper, number of keepers, etc. In a vacuum, I think that Story is the better value in a standard 5×5 format, but Xander is worth the extra cash if hitters are penalized for Ks.

  7. Richie Suess says:
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    call me greedy but Miller cooled down over the past 7 days. It was to be expected but I thank him for the tare he went on as he pretty much clinched me a playoff berth.

    That being said, there is still work to be done and I need to win this week to have a shot at the regular season title so….

    Brad Miller or Randal Grichuk this week ?

    H2H Points League

    Thanks!

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Richie Suess: Yeah, Miller has cooled off a bit over the past few games, but that’ll happen with guys like Miller (and Grichuk) who tend to strike out a decent amount. I’d probably stick with Miller though. He’s been more consistent than Grichuk and hits in a better spot in the lineup for counting stats. Both of their schedules look solid for the upcoming week though.

  8. swaggerjackers says:
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    Magoo!

    Solid abasement as always. I missed the boat on the Miller waiver claim. Oh well, perhaps he’ll be someone to target next season.

    Speaking of next season, who do you like better as a cheap speed OF keeper in an OBP league – Keon or Jankowski?

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @swaggerjackers: Swagger! I’d prefer Jankowski over Broxton. Both have terrific walk rates, but Broxton’s K-rate is very concerning. He’s struck out at a high rate at every level which makes him risky.

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