As the Marlins head into an off-season filled with more questions than answers, we continue to look at players who could form the nucleus of this ball club in the future. Rumors continue to swirl around the likelihood of keeping Miami’s star outfield, comprised of Uzuna, Stanton and Yelich, together over the next few years.
It’s almost certain that at least one or maybe even two of these outfielders will be moved during the off-season. The depleted Marlins pitching staff has been well documented and Jeter and Company have already commented about the need to reduce salary. Moving one or more of their starting outfielders would begin to solve that problem.
In that sobering light, who can the Fish look to in order to fill the outfield position void down the road? While this player may not be ready for the Big Leagues for another year or two, the Marlins have a diamond in the rough in 7th rated prospect, Brian Miller.
A Little Background
Miller attended Millbrook High School in Raleigh NC and grew up a die-hard Tar Heel fan. The 5’10”, 158 lbs shortstop hit .416 his senior year while slugging .564 and sported an OPS of 1.014. He accomplished that with 101 at bats, while striking out only 8 times. The slick fielding Miller committed 3 errors in 29 games and had a fielding percentage of .967.
From high school, Miller committed to play at UNC Ashville. However, when the Bulldogs head coach, Tom Smith, retired Miller decided to try and walk on at the University of North Carolina to play for his dream team, the Tar Heels.
Miller had never talked with any of the UNC baseball coaches before his “tryout” with longtime assistant Scott Forbes. As Miller told writer, Avery Trendel earlier this year, “I’d grown up with season tickets watching all the Omaha runs-so I was a little starstruck at first honestly.” Well, Miller impressed the coaches enough to make the team his freshman year, appearing in 52 games for the Tar Heels primarily as a DH, hitting .288 with 16 RBI’s and 10 stolen bases. He also grew 2 inches that year and put on nearly 20 lbs.
By the time the 21 year old Miller finished his junior year at UNC, he was hitting .343, slugging, .502, and had an OPS of .924. He also burnished his resume playing for the Orleans Firebirds in the prestigious Cape Cod League in 2016, hitting .327 and playing in the All Star game that year.
The Miami Marlins took notice of this former walk on and drafted Miller as the 36th overall pick in this year’s draft awarding Miller a $1,888,800 signing bonus. Not bad for a kid who could barely get a sniff from D1 schools, let alone the professional ranks coming out of high school.
Scouts project the left-handed hitting Miller as a line drive gap hitter and a top of the order table-setter with plus speed at the next level. He has a mature approach at the plate and shows good plate discipline.
Miller has hit the ground running as a professional in his first year with the Class A Greensboro Grasshoppers in the South Atlantic League. Now up to 6’ 1” and 186 lbs, Miller hit .322 in 57 games for the Grasshoppers, while slugging .416 and had an OPS of .800. He struck out only 35 times in 233 AB’s (6.6% of the time) and was 3rd on the team with 17 doubles. In his 483 innings playing outfield this year, Miller has recorded 126 putouts with 4 assists and 2 errors for a .985 fielding percentage.
We are all anxiously preparing for the start of the Jeter/Sherman regime to begin, and the changes that will inevitably take place. The breakup of the Marlins “Big 3” in the outfield is a very likely possibility. However, take solace in the fact that there are prospects like Brian Miller in the Marlin’s farm system waiting to make an impact on the Fish, in the near future. While we may have to wait until 2020 to see Miller in the Big Leagues, I wouldn't bet against this gritty young outfielder who continues to prove the skeptics wrong.