Because they stand in contrast – stark, cold, barren contrast – to the Cubs’ lack of big league movement so far this offseason, I understand that these minor league signings are met with a fair level of distaste right now. Even those of you who know it’s no big deal, these signings happen every year, they don’t actually have anything at all to do with what does or does not happen at the big league level, you are still justified in being a little edgy right now. Heck, I’m a little edgy right now.
… but these signings are no big deal, they happen every year, and they don’t actually have anything at all to do with what the Cubs do or do not do at the big league level. Just sayin’.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 19, 2019
The latest Cubs minor league signing is a 27-year-old outfielder who got his first taste of the big leagues last year, but has mostly been a AAA guy the last three years. Miller, who bats lefty, is a high-contact type who also takes his walks, but has no meaningful power. He’s gotten better at each of his minor league stops with more time, but, overall, he’s not an offensive-leaning outfielder.
He hit .264/.346/.431 at AAA last year, which doesn’t look so bad until you remember the offensive environment and see that it was about 10% below league average.
Instead, Miller is an elite speed/defense guy, of the type you kinda love having in your back pocket at AAA, especially with rosters growing to 26 this coming season. He’s not likely to see much big league time, but having a late-inning speed and defense guy available just in case you want to roll with that type on the roster for a little while? It’s nice to have.
That’s why the Twins picked him up from the Mariners in August last year, though he ultimately saw very little action down the stretch.
Sounds like Miller was also a very well-liked, highly-respected guy in the Mariners organization, which is a non-zero factor when you’re considering who is going to be around your young players:
One of the last things Ian Miller did as a Mariner was pay it forward to some of the younger players in the org. One of the hardest working players I’ve ever seen with one of the best senses of humor and an even better person. We will miss you @8rellimnai. Go kill it in Minny. pic.twitter.com/IcxQfGHIDP
— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) August 10, 2019
On the whole, I like this signing. Not because I’m dreaming on any realistic upside with Miller as a regular in the big leagues, but instead because it’s kinda like already getting that depth speed/defense guy you might need down the stretch.
Of course, the Cubs would have to be in contention for that to matter.
Bonus factoid: despite the generally underwhelming minor league efforts, Miller is projected by Steamer for a .236/.293/.332 slash line in the big leagues if he were to play there in 2020, good for a 65 wRC+ … which is one point higher than Albert Almora posted in 2019.