#Mariners Minor League Contest – Brad Miller

For decades people have looked at athletes and speculated that many don’t put the work into their careers that blue-collar workers invest outside of sports; I am here to tell you that Brad Miller does not fit that mold. Miller would play baseball in Sri-Lanka for $100 dollars if you put a baseball bat, a plane ticket, and a Sinhala dictionary in his hands.

I have greatly enjoyed learning about him from some of his friends and my friend; google.

Windermere, FL is home to 2,462 residents (2010) and you can count the number of paved roads using just your hands. Windermere has one ZIP code, one Area code, and takes up just over 1.1 square miles of land. But there is something in the water in Windermere; this I am sure about.

Paula Creamer (LPGA golfer for all our non-civilized readers), Shaquille O’Neal, Dee Gordon, and Johnny Damon all hail from this small town.

The next athlete put on this list very well might be Brad Miller of the Seattle Mariners.

Miller creates a big splash with his bat, seen here, but what impresses us most about this kid is his ability to stay calm and react appropriately on and off the diamond.

I had a chance to talk with Jabari Henry, Pulaski Mariners OF, who describes playing baseball with Miller, “since we were like 10.” Henry, who attended Olympia High School with Miller in 2007 and 2008, spoke very highly of their time together.

“He always had it in him. He always wanted it and one of the hardest workers I know. When he wouldn’t play well you would never know and that’s the biggest thing I learned from him.”

Much like Cameron Hobson, who I wrote about last week, Miller is a guy that no one ever said didn’t represent his team, school, or organization with 100% of his time and effort.

One of my favorite quotes from Miller entails a case of mistaken identity while he was over in Japan playing in the FISU World University Baseball Championships.

“It was funny, but I actually had one guy in a Clemson hat come up to me both summers, and he would go, ‘Jeff Baker, Jeff Baker!’ I’m like, ‘no way!’, because I saw him two summers ago.”

“He comes up to me wearing the Clemson hat, saying, ‘Clemson, Jeff Baker!’, and this time he has a hat for me to sign, and on the bill it has signatures by Jeff Baker and Danny Ford. It made my day, man. He gave me a big hug and showed me the hat, and it was amazing that I found him both years. Those are the kinds of experiences that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Jeff Baker is a C/1B for the Detroit Tigers who attended Clemson in 2001-2004.

When Miller talks about baseball, a sport his father Steve played at Northern Iowa, you get a sense for how much it means to him to play the game he loves everyday.

“There is a lot of emphasis on details and focusing on improving the little things,” Miller said. “When Major League coach Mike Brumley came over and worked with us on baserunning it really set in how important everything was. I really look forward to getting more time to talk and ask questions to all the coaches. “

Enough chit-chat; let’s talk about the baseball numbers Miller has put up –

Shout-out here to Olympia High School for having the hands-down best historical statistics menus of any high school I have come across.

Miller’s coach at Olympia High School was former MLB pitcher Randy O’Neal. Randy recorded 17 wins off the mound over 7 seasons in the Major Leagues striking out 248.

Brad Miller listed as an INF on the 2005 Olympia H.S. JV squad. Miller played the second most innings on the offensive squad logging 15 games played batting .468/.536/.596 (22-47) with a 1.131 OPS. Miller tied for the team lead in runs with 15.

Miller returned to school in 2006 as part of Olympia’s Varsity squad and played in 24 games over 148 innings. Miller batted .344/.456/.609 with a 1.065 OPS leading the team in doubles, triples, slugging, and OPS among starters. Miller also hit two HRs to finish second on the team.

2007 was Miller’s coming out year in Florida High School Athletics batting .413/.560/.713 with an enormous 1.320 OPS. In 28 games Miller racked up 31 hits, 25 runs, 31 RBIs, 6 HRs, 7 SBs, and walked 26 times.

**Note – 2007 was Jabari Henry’s freshman season with Olympia batting .267 driving in 12 and scoring 19 times in 26 games.

2008 was Miller’s final season with Olympia High School. He was named an All-American batting .461/.548/.724 posting a 1.272 OPS over 24 games. Miller recorded a career high 35 hits in 2008 leading the team in triples with 3.

**Note – 2008 was Jabari Henry’s sophomore season with Olympia batting .418/.495/.722 leading the team in HRs with 6.

College scouts and MLB scouts both took notice of Miller’s High School accomplishments on the diamond. Miller was ranked as the 17th best prep ball player in Florida by Perfect Game.  The Texas Rangers drafted Miller in the 39th round of the 2008 MLB-First Year Player Draft (#1173 overall). And to top off the exciting summer Miller was offered a scholarship to play ball at Clemson University.

Miller eventually picked Clemson University.

2009 was Miller’s freshman season with Clemson as he became the first freshman to start all 66 games in a Clemson uniform since 2005. Miller hit .273 posting a .405 OBP and crossed the plate 39 times. Miller finished 11th in the nation in walks, with 53, as the only freshman to break the Top-85 in base on balls. His 53 walks also led the team and ranked 9th in school history. Miller also drive in 36 runs and stole 16 bases.

After Clemson’s 2009 season ended in the Super-Regionals to Arizona State Miller went on to play that summer for Team USA in the 2009 World Baseball Challenge. As part of a 22-man Team USA squad Miller hit .255 with a .417 OBP stealing 8 bases in 23 games. Team USA won their gold medal match against Germany 8-1 with Drew Pomeranz throwing a no-hitter into the 7th inning. Found a team picture of the 2009 Team USA champions here; not sure where Brad is at, he is #4.

Miller returned to Clemson in 2010 continuing his studies in Marketing while establishing himself as one of the best offensive players in the ACC. Miller hit a team high .357 with 90 hits in 69 games played (9th in school history). Miller crossed the plate 71 times showing his power stroke with 8 HRs and 19 2Bs on his way to 141 total bases for the season. In 30 ACC regular-season games Miller tied for the conference lead in walks and finished 2nd in batting average and on-base percentage. Miller was ranked as the 3rd best prospect in the ACC for the 2011 MLB Draft by Baseball America and the 28th best prospect in the nation for the 2011 MLB Draft by Perfect Game.

Miller joined Team USA again in the summer of 2010 to play in the World University Baseball Championships. Team USA took silver in Tokyo, Japan as Miller hit a team high .441 (15-34); 80 points higher than the next batter. Miller also led Team USA in OBP at .525 scoring 11 times and slugging .647.

Fellow Seattle farm hands Carson Smith and Mike Zunino were both invited to the Team USA trials but did not make the squad.

2011 was Miller’s final season at Clemson and despite missing 7 games to a broken finger he would go on to win the Brooks Wallace Award for the Nation’s Top Shortstop and ACC Player of the Year.

In 49 games in 2011 Miller hit .431; 60 points higher than the next batter. He drove in 44 RBIs, crossed the plate 49 times, and recorded an OBP of .536.

Of the hardware Miller picked up during the 2011 season he had this to say:

“Being a shortstop and taking pride in playing the position – and then also being able to represent Clemson and bring an award back to the school to continue the tradition there, it’s a huge honor,” Miller said.”

Miller accepted his awards the same night fellow Seattle farm hand Danny Hultzen received the John Olerud award for best two-way player in college baseball. The year prior to Hultzen’s victory Mike McGee, another Seattle farmhand, took the award.

Miller would be drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 2nd round (63rd overall) of the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft joining fellow ACC All-American Danny Hultzen as the Mariners Top-2 picks.

The awards ceremony and MLB draft were far from the end of Miller and Hultzen’s journey to the Major Leagues. Both were asked how well they knew the other in playing through the ACC together:

“We’re not going to talk about how I fared against Danny today,” said Miller, smiling. “Obviously, he’s one of the best pitchers in the country. I was happy to end up on the same team as him this time. We actually got to meet each other earlier this year in Lubbock, Texas at an awards ceremony. It was cool getting to know him after facing him.”

Said Hultzen: “After facing a guy for however many years, you kind of expect what kind of guy he is. You know what kind of player he is — he’s really good. You hope he’s a good guy, too, and Brad’s definitely a good guy. That was good to see.”

Within 48 hours of being drafted by the Mariners Miller reported to Clinton, Iowa to play for the LumberKings; Mariners A-Ball affiliate. Audio of his arrival here.

In 14 games with Clinton Miller hit .415/.458/.528 with a 0.986 OPS scoring 9 times.

Those 14 games were enough to show Tom McNamara and the Mariners scouting staff that Miller was ready for a higher level of competition as he would begin 2012 with High Desert the Mariner’s High-A Ball affiliate.

In 2012 Miller would be named by Baseball America as having the Best Strike Zone Discipline in the CAL League as he batted .339/.412/.524 with 52 walks in 97 games. Miller totaled 139 hits in those 97 games with 33 doubles, 5 triples, and 11 HRs. That’s an impressive 33% of his hits going for extra bases.

Tom McNamara and the Mariners scouting staff once again took notice of Miller and promoted him to Jackson, Mariner’s AA affiliate, to finish out the 2012 season.

There were whispers that Miller would not produce in Jackson after being in the CAL League; infamous for inflating batting statistics. However this would not be the case for Miller. In 34 games, as of 8/28/2012, Miller is batting .320/.415/.440 walking 21 times in just 34 games. Miller is just one double away from reaching 40 on the season and has totaled 270 bases between both teams swiping 23 bases.

Miller is listed as the 91st overall prospect in baseball at Midseason 2012 by minorleagueball.com and the 5th overall prospect in the Mariner’s system.

Miller’s defense has always been something of a question mark to scouts. Miller has 36 errors for 2012 although he has only committed 5 since his promotion to Jackson.

In following Miller’s career from High School to his time spent in the Mariner’s organization I can say that he has always improved his defense the more time he spends at any level. This goes for his time with Clemson and Team USA and I am confident, in line with his fielding at Jackson, that his progress with the Mariners will be no different.

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