As noted in the Shout Box, I have cut and pasted Gordon's article into a new post.
Unfortunately, it loses his pictures. Hopefully it can get patched up later, but at least we have Gordon's text for now.
Somebody's coming up on the majors looking for blood in the water. Some of you may know that I'm a huge Nick Franklin fan, and have been since draft night. When Jason Churchill called him the worst pick in the first round I was flabbergasted, so I went looking for the reasons that would be and couldn't find many I could agree with. And sure enough, he's a top-50 prospect with all kinds of upside as a glove-position infielder (2B at worst) who has swagger in his game and a crushingly pure left-handed swing, as well as an improving right-handed one. His shortstop defense isn't great, but a second-baseman with pop is a huge commodity. So when we drafted Brad Miller, my response was basically, "Hey look, it's Nick Franklin without the home run swing!" Don't get me wrong, I never disliked Miller, but he was the college version of Franklin: nice left-handed swing, questionable glove at SS but a huge work ethic, with vocal leadership skills and all kinds of potential. But while I didn't doubt Franklin's power (at least as a lefty) even with his scrawny frame, Miller's swing made me question his ultimate power ceiling. ------------------------------------- Here's how Miller looked when we drafted him: See how high he holds his hands? His top hand is OVER his helmet. It creates this chop-down motion on the ball that makes for a lot of hard-hit grounders but makes it VERY hard to clear the fence. Ichiro got the same effect by leaning away from the ball when he swung. Terrific for ground balls the other way, but that's not what I wanted from a 2B/3B (I had doubts about his ability to stick at short). It reminded me of Craig Counsell, and I'm not sure that Craig could hold his hands any higher than that. Counsell's career-high in HRs in a season with a swing like that was 9, btw. His second-best year was 4. That's not to knock Counsell - he was a 20 WAR player over the course of his career. Who wouldn't be thrilled to draft one of those? But 20 WAR in 16 years is not exactly a game-changing player. He's one of those guys you need, but not one you really go looking for. And the leg kick/knee knock in that video handcuffs Brad's ability to drive the ball, again AKA Ichiro. It helps take a 6'2 guy with a good strong build and turn him into a slap hitter. What's interesting is the Ms noticed that too (what? I wasn't the only one?) and started moving his hands down as well as cocking the bat back further during his swing to change the plane and load a little. I was glad to see that last year, and the season he had between the Cal and Southern Leagues helped illustrate the changes. Miller, Cal League: .339/.412/.524 Miller, Southern League: .320/.406/.476 Combined line: 40 doubles, 7 triples, 15 HRs out of 186 total hits, and a 74/105 batting eye. Have I mentioned his batting eye? He led the system in walks. Now, he also led the system in plate appearances but the man is willing to stroll to first base when required, something many of our players struggle to do. But his 15 HRs aren't especially impressive considering how much time he spent in High Desert. Kyle Seager hit 14 HRs his year in the Cal League, Stefen Romero hit 11 in less than half Miller's at-bats... he wasn't exactly a machine. But Miller further tweaked his swing in the offseason, amid rumors that he was passing Nick Franklin as both a shortstop and a plate presence. ---------------------------- This is Miller now (I know the angle is different, bear with me): He stands there disdainfully, hands at chest height (below his chin even). When the pitcher throws he rocks his front leg a little, even lifts it, but doesn't knock it together with his other one like dorothy wishing for no place like home. And he fires off at the ball with just a little hand load and certainly not chopping down at at thanks to his revised hand position. The correct plane is there to get an excellent angle for some loft as well as to keep a quick bat in the zone for a while. You can't see the batspeed in this slowed-down clip but trust me he has it. He's always had it, he just didn't always use it to its best advantage. Miller is a strong guy and he's now using that strength to his advantage. He's getting the ball in the air the right way, for lined shots instead of squibbed grounders. I took clips of him getting hits the other way to illustrate how differently he's attacking the ball now. His college swing was an anchor limiting his upside as a hitter. Last year's swing was an in-between swing while he figured this out. This year's swing... look out for this year's swing. Brad Miller played every single game last year as a shortstop. Today Blowers said he would go back to AA to continue as a SS, but get in some time at second and even third. It doesn't sound like they're moving him off the position, though, just giving themselves options. If Miller can stay at short, he's a top-30 prospect. I don't see how he can't be. John Sickels wants to have his babies, and I don't blame him. There's so much to like about Miller... But the best thing is that he's ours. I don't know who is going to win the fight between Miller and Franklin to stay with the Mariners (loser gets traded in an epic package for something we desperately need and DON'T have duplicates of on the farm) but I know that it should be a terrific cage match. Miller's not just some guy, or the next Rich Poythress. Miller's gonna have a long big league future ahead of him, and right now it looks like he'll be far more of an offensive force than the Craig Counsell I originally pegged him as. Well done, sir. Carry on. ~G