Brad Miller -- who like Kyle Seager a few seasons ago was among the minor league leaders in hits this year with his 186 knocks -- has had a fantastic first full minor league season, playing for both High Desert and Jackson and leading the Mariners organization in a number of categories.
The shortstop recently took some time before the Jackson Generals playoff series opened up to talk with SeattleClubhouse's Rick Randall about his drive, his love for the game, his defense and a number of other topics.
SeattleClubhouse: Hello Brad. I've been trying to line this up since late last year, so, pleasure to finally get the chance to speak with you.
Brad Miller: Definitely, Rick. Thanks for the call.
SC: You came to the club as a 2nd round pick, ACC Player of the Year and hit over .400 last year in your first abbreviated action in pro ball, but yet your profile out there in the big, bad world of baseball prospecting wasn't all that high coming into the 2012 season. I assume you don't pay much attention to such things, but why do you think that is?
BM: Like you said, I like playing baseball and that's all I'm really focused on -- getting better. And, honestly, being a minor league player, I'm not where I want to be in any phase of my game. It's always good to have people notice you, but I just keep worrying about getting better and preparing myself.
SC: This season your stock has certainly risen. You finished the regular season with the 2nd most hits of any player in the minor leagues and posted the rare .300/.400/.500 slash yet again across two levels. Describe your approach to hitting and what allows you to succeed in your opinion.
BM: Obviously, being my first full season of professional ball, I think I've learned a lot just by going through the season and accumulating over 500 at bats. Learning what works, where I feel the best to hit some really good pitching. For me, that means being aggressive; going up there ready to hit and reacting. Not sitting on one pitch or one spot, but just looking for a pitch to hit and hit it hard. You're going to hit some balls hard, and you're also going to have some at bats where you see some things that you haven't seen before. But, for me, it all comes from staying aggressive and really getting a pitch and hitting it hard.
SC: That goes hand-in-hand with what your manager at High-A, Pedro Grifol, has said to me on a few different occasions, and that is you -- and other young players -- just "building your library of baseball knowledge".
BM: Yes. For sure. That was his big thing; just go out there, play the game and learn. And in a season like this, getting 500-plus at bats and seeing some pitchers that you get familiar with and you're learning different situations better because they keep coming up time and again.
SC: Tying in to that experience factor, people just looking at the paper numbers are often awed by your offense but turned off by your error totals at shortstop, but that, too, is all part of the learning process I think. I have spoken with very few people that don't think Brad Miller will make it as a shortstop. Chris Gwynn told me "I don't know a lot of big league shortstops that didn't make a lot of errors in the minors." What are your thoughts on the subject of your defense, your long–term defensive home and the error totals?
BM: My goal as a shortstop and as a baseball player is to make every play. And that probably isn't something that we can really measure with numbers. There are some plays that maybe they may not give me an error or score an error, but that could still be a play that I feel like I should make for my pitcher and for my team. It really goes back to the same thing -- only instead of 500-plus at bats we're talking about the innings and the opportunities at shortstop defensively -- that is huge. Going through some adversity and learning what works, learning what speed I have to play at, talking with Pedro. Like the hitting, being aggressive and not being afraid to make mistakes and testing my limits. Obviously you want the numbers to reflect as positively as they can, but for me, this has all been about getting better. And I felt that I really improved throughout the season and, more importantly, I feel like I have an idea about how to improve going forward.
SC: We hear a lot about the different baseball climates in the minor leagues and you got a chance to go from the California League to the Southern League this year because of your success. What have you noticed as the biggest change between the two and what have those differences taught you about yourself, your approach or limitations?
BM: The biggest difference is the humidity, number one. I'm from Florida, so I should be used to it, but it still caught me off guard a bit. When I came here (Jackson) I was drenched after the first game. So that is the physical side. Other than that, the playing surface here is a lot slower, so at shortstop I had to really be aggressive in attacking balls and stuff like that. Then the level of competition -- obviously it is a step up (in Double-A). You want to show that you can compete and that you can hang at this level and players here have a better idea of themselves. But besides that, you still have to do the same things. You still have to prepare, you still have to work hard, you still have to hit and you still have to field your position. It's just a different environment, but it is still baseball. New teammates, new clubhouse, but just fit in your approach, prepare yourself and keep doing what you've been doing.
SC: You made the move from High-A to Double-A in pretty close relation to your middle infield teammate at both stops, Stefen Romero. How has being able to play beside him at both stops helped each of you adjust?
BM: You're right; getting reunited with a bunch of familiar faces certainly helps, makes the transition a lot easier. And with Romo -- who got promoted at mid-season -- I played with him since last year in Clinton before High Desert this year. For me, I try to pick up something from each teammate. And with Romo, he is just so consistent. People would say, "he's on fire", but really, that's just him; he's consistent and he's always like that so that's just a normal week. I try to take something from the fact that he's always the same guy -- in the cages, in practice and in games. Obviously defensively up the middle, we feel comfortable with one another. We know were we want to play certain hitters and we're comfortable with where the other is. Since he got up earlier than me I try to read off of him for some things and listen to what he has to say about certain guys or certain situations. So, yes, having Stefen up here definitely made the transition a lot easier for me.
SC: Back to you and the draft for a moment -– as the club's 2nd round pick in the 2011 draft, you and 1st rounder Danny Hultzen were introduced in Seattle together. You and Danny competed against one another in college and knew one another a bit, so what was that experience of being linked entering pro ball and being showcased together in Seattle like for you?
BM: Well, like I brought up last year when they asked me about hitting off of Danny, I'm definitely happy that we're in the same organization and I don't have to do that. But it's awesome. Danny deserves all the accolades he gets because of how great he was in college and going that high was definitely an honor that he deserved. But having the chance to hang out with him for that experience was great and we've kept in contact a lot. Actually when he got moved up to Tacoma I got moved to Jackson and I'm living in his old apartment now. But it's awesome to get to follow him and we've been keeping tabs on him. In High Desert I played with a couple of his old college teammates in (John) Hicks and (Steven) Proscia, so we kept in touch with him. Hopefully we can catch up with him soon and play with him at some higher levels.
SC: You are known as a bit of a "baseball rat" –- a Tom McNamara draft specialty with Seattle with guys like you, Jack Marder and Nick Franklin. Where does that insatiable love for the game come from in you?
BM: Well, first of all, Nick and I actually are both from Florida and we played together a bunch in high school. We were on a team together when we were 15. But my dad grew up playing baseball and loved it. He could have gone to a number of colleges to play football but he ended up going to smaller schools so that he could keep playing baseball because he just loved it. So I just grew up in a baseball family, had a love for the game early and it's stayed with me ever since -- it's fun. I was just lucky enough to have parents that supported me and did everything for me to play in tournaments or drive an hour to practice every week and that never phased them, so that was great. Every family vacation was scheduled around which stadium we could hit up, too, so I was lucky enough to get to see a lot of stadiums growing up, too.
SC: Who have you counted as the biggest influences on your baseball abilities and career to this point?
BM: That's easy for me. It has to be Chet Lemon, my high school travel ball coach. He played in the big leagues for the Tigers and the White Sox, won the World Series in 1984. He runs a famous travel ball team named "The Juice" down in Florida and has had a lot of famous players come through his program; guys like Zack Greinke, Billy Butler, Prince Fielder, the Weeks brothers -- all of those guys and more have gone through Chet's program. I joined when I was a sophomore in high school and it was life changing. I learned more in my first practice with the Juice than I had in my whole life to that point, so that was huge. I got to play three years for Coach Chet and still when I go back to Orlando I go practice and see the young Juice guys and I get to see them getting into college one kid now, Chris Okie, comes to mind. I coached him when he was 12 and now he's committed to Clemson. So that experience and those coaches with the juice were definitely influential on me.
SC: What methods or tools do you use to motivate yourself and/or constantly push yourself for improvement as you move through pro ball?
BM: I definitely think that writing down your thoughts and what your learning is huge. Just because it is every day, it is a lot of games and it is stuff that you don't want to forget, because it will come back up. I'm still working on that because at the end of the year, after the playoffs, I want to be able to go back and reflect to find the ways that I can keep improving. My expectations about the game and about how I go about my business are important to me and I use those experiences. Bottom line is I always want to compete and have that edge. But as long as I'm going out and leaving it all on the field, that's something I can hang my hat on and something that my teammates will appreciate. But keeping track of results and of situations is something that I do because I want to keep getting better, keep improving.
SC: So along with Nick Franklin, I see that you went to Olympia HS in Florida where one of the Mariners picks from this year, Jabari Henry, also attended. Are you and Jabari close?
BM: Oh yeah. I played with Jabari in Windermere Little League all the way up through All-Star teams and three years in high school. We actually were both drafted in the same round by the Rangers and didn't sign, but then after I was picked and we talked he said, "hey, maybe it'll happen again" and it did. It was awesome. I was watching the draft, saw his name come up and I called him right then and he was excited. He's done well and I know he got promoted to Everett for the playoffs. But, yeah, Jabari and I literally lived like a minute from one another growing up and I couldn't be happier for him.
SC: Well that is all I have for you today, Brad. Thanks so much for your time. Good luck in the playoffs and I look forward to getting the opportunity to talk with you again in the future as you continue to climb the organizational ladder for Seattle.
BM: Thank you very much, Rick. It's been my pleasure.
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