Last year’s age 26 breakout power season from Brad Miller was one of the more surprising aspects of last season. Power was up across the board in 2016, but to go from a career high of 11 home runs to 30 while only adding 100 plate appearances against the year prior was far out of line with the norm. Entering this year, Miller was one of the more interesting players to follow for a few reasons.
First off, he was slated to start at second base which would give him eligibility at both middle infield spots as well as first base. In most formats that alone is valuable, but in deeper leagues that have middle infield and corner infield spots, a player like Miller becomes a very rare commodity. And it is not absurd to start a middle infielder at your corner infield spot if he hits in the middle of a lineup and has 30 home run power.
Secondly, what the heck were we supposed to expect out of him this year? He sold out for power last year, as I stated in my last Miller article before the season calling Miller a dynasty league buy, but how will that alter the opposition’s approach against him this year?
So far, we have seen a pretty drastic difference in the Miller this year compared to Miller last year. His walk rate has jumped up almost 10% which has allowed him to maintain a very solid .355 OBP despite his .220 batting average. The leagues I play in and speak to in most of my articles are on base percentage leagues, so Miller has still maintained value so far this year despite the power dipping back to his pre-breakout levels.
With the significantly increased walk rate, it appears both Miller and the league’s pitchers feel as though his power is legit. He likely will finish far below the 30 home run total he had last season, but pitchers know that power is there and are being cautious around Miller – despite Steven Souza Jr. and Logan Morrison hitting well behind him.
In looking at Miller’s StatCast profile, he had an average exit velocity of 93 miles per hour last year compared to 89.34 miles per hour this year. The lower exit velocity has led to decreases in launch angle, average height, and obviously average distance as well. What is important to note, however, is that Miller’s pull rate is still north of 40%.
He needs to hit fewer ground balls and more fly balls in order to boost his power numbers back up, but if he keeps pulling the ball with a high frequency as he did last season then the power numbers should spike back up, especially with improved patience at the plate.
As we saw yesterday, when Miller stole two bases, an improved on base percentage could also lead to him running more. He has not been a tremendous base stealer in the past, but he does have enough speed to steal 10+ bases if he takes enough opportunities. I suspect with Miller’s current approach that he will go on a power binge not dissimilar to the one he had last year when he hit 15 home runs in a two month span.
I wonder if the Rays will continue to hit Corey Dickerson leadoff and Miller fourth against right-handed pitching, but in either place Miller should see a solid amount of plate appearances and run production opportunities. I would not get too concerned about the lack of home runs so far, and I would look to add him in leagues that owners may be losing patience.
Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.