Bold Prediction #1: Tyson Ross will be a top-45 starter (until he reaches his innings cap)
I’ve expressed my love glands all over Brad “The Triple Machine” Miller, as I’ve affectionately deemed him, in the past. It ought not to come as a surprise that I really like Miller. I project him to finish seventh among all shortstops, but for the sake of being really bold, I predict Miller will be a top-5 shortstop.
Before we get into what he did last year, let me introduce you to the minor-league Brad Miller. He hit .334/.409/.516 with 27 home runs and 30 stolen bases in just under 1,000 plate appearances. For the less-than-mathematically-savvy, that’s about 14 home runs and 15 stolen bases per 500 plate appearances, or about 80 percent of a major league season. He hit 10 triples (yes, yes, yessssss) and absolutely roped, per his triple slash line.
Now, back to the current incarnation of The Triple Machine. Because he debuted mid-season, let us extrapolate his 2013 stats for a full 162 games:
.265/.318/.418, 87 runs, 77 RBI, 17 home runs, 11 stolen bases, and… 13 triples.
Man, I love those triples. Now I know you’re wondering: Where does his nickname come from? Why am I so hung up on his triples? I’m really glad you asked!!!!!
From an intuitive standpoint, his innate ability to somehow hit a lot of triples indicates 1) he’s got legs, even though he doesn’t always use them to steal bases; and 2) because he doesn’t have Billy Hamilton‘s legs, he smacks line drives and has the power to shoot it into the gaps and fly into third.
A look at the top 50 triples hitters of the past five years yields peculiar results: Their collective BAbip (batting average on balls in play) clocks in at about 15 points above the average player’s BAbip. This can likely be explained by their speed, translating into an inherent ability to leg out more ground balls. As you further truncate the list, the spread gets wider: the t0p-3o average BAbip is about 20 points higher, and almost 25 points higher for the top 10. Meanwhile, Miller hit the most triples per plate appearance of all MLB players — in a sense, ultimately making him the No. 1 triples hitter for 2013. (Starling Marte, who stole more than 40 bases, squeaked in behind him.)
What I’m getting at is Miller’s BAbip last year was .294, but it’s very reasonable it could approach .325 — above the league average, but “average” for guys who hit lots of triples — and do it annually. (It’s also worth noting his .388 BAbip in the minors.) I think he’s primed for a spike in batting average, and his ability to reach base more will further pad his counting stats. This is all before considering any improvements to his plate discipline, which is already pretty good for his age (15.5% K, 7.2% BB).
Miller has the perfect combination of above-average speed and above-average power to notch double digits in home runs and stolen bases on an annual basis — not exactly a common occurrence up the middle — with the possibility of future 20 HR/20 SB seasons, territory reserved right now for only Ian Desmond and a healthy Hanley Ramirez. Even if he never reaches his ceiling, his ability to threaten a .300 batting average every year will make up for it.
Oh, and if you’re asking yourself, “Has The Triple Machine already hit two home runs and one triple in only 23 spring training at-bats?” The answer is yes. Yes he has. Now get on board, friends.