Tampa Bay Rays: Brad Miller a Victim of His Own Versatility

Brad Miller still wants to be a shortstop, but his defensive versatility just doesn’t make that an attractive option for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brad Miller hasn’t been around forever… it just seems that way. As he prepares to enter his fifth season at the game’s highest level at age 27, the Tampa Bay Rays are planning to enter 2017 with Miller as their primary second baseman.

Miller was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Seattle Mariners out of Clemson. He made a quick ascension through the minors and made his MLB debut in mid-2013. The Rays acquired Miller following the 2015 season via trade. Miller has spent most of his time at shortstop, but he has gained experience all across the diamond.

It’s that experience that makes Miller such a valuable piece for the Rays, and it’s that experience that makes Miller a victim of his own success at the major league level. Despite the acquisition of Matt Duffy at the 2016 trade deadline, and all indications being that Duffy should be healthy enough to reclaim the shortstop position following an Achilles injury that cut his season short, Miller prepared to play shortstop throughout the offseason.

Shortstop is a more glamorous position than second base, and it’s not surprising that Miller, who has made 345 career starts at shortstop across his four seasons, would want to remain there. The problem is, he’s quite poor defensively at the position. The Rays are simply better off utilizing his versatility elsewhere. Miller exploded offensively last season, breaking out with 30 home runs and a .482 slugging percentage, so his bat will be an asset no matter where he is deployed.

Miller made 37 starts at first base last season following the Duffy trade, with Logan Morrison moving to designated hitter and eventually the disabled list. The Rays brought back Morrison on a one-year deal earlier this month, and Morrison seems ticketed for a return to first base. Incumbent second baseman Logan Forsythe was traded to the Dodgers in January, opening up a spot for Miller.

Miller made 37 appearances, including 18 starts, at second base in his three seasons with the Mariners, so he is no stranger to the position. He even made 30 starts in the outfield in 2015, but the Rays appear set there with Colby Rasmus, Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza and Corey Dickerson in the fold. Miller isn’t strong defensively at any position, but he’s at least competent.

Even if Miller starts as the primary second baseman, expect the Rays to continue making use of his versatility throughout 2017. Duffy at shortstop, Morrison at first base, Rasmus in left field, Kiermaier in center field and Souza in right field all dealt with injuries last season.

Miller would probably prefer a home at one position in 2017, even if shortstop is unlikely. However, much of his value lies in his versatility, and you can expect the Rays to continue exploiting that.

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