When you are hitting .212 as a team through a quarter of the season, you should be looking for offense wherever you can.
That’s why the debate on is there a place on the 26 man roster for Owen Miller is getting ridiculous. Miller has played shortstop more than any other position on the diamond during his minor league career, but if the organization is concerned about his defense, there are many other places where the Indians can use his bat.
First, we aren’t claiming Miller is the second coming of Babe Ruth. However, he is a career .317 hitter (830 OPS) during his professional career, so he has hit wherever he has played, and while we understand spring training numbers don’t mean much, but he hit there as well.
In 12 games at Columbus thus far, the right-handed hitter is batting an incredible .442 (23 for 52) with a homer and seven runs batted in. The only down stat is 13 strikeouts in 56 plate appearances, although he hasn’t fanned more than 86 times in any minor league season to date.
It would be more difficult to come up with a reason NOT to bring him up.
As to where he should play? Well, there are a few suggestions, but we’d pencil him in everyday at first base, where Jake Bauers and Yu Chang have combined to hit .171 with two home runs and 12 ribbies.
You could keep him at SS, where Andres Gimenez failed at the plate (534 OPS) and although Amed Rosario has had a couple of decent games at the plate, he is still hitting just .231 with a 629 OPS.
Since we like Rosario better than the Bauers/Chang platoon, that’s why we’d put Miller at that spot, and basically check back in after 20-25 games to see how he is doing.
He isn’t a power hitter really, but the Tribe ranks 8th in the American League in home runs now. What the Indians really need is a guy who gets hits and gets on base, they are second from the bottom in the AL in on base percentage and Miller has a minor league career .375 on base percentage.
When you think about it, if he came up and hit .250, that would be an improvement for the Tribe offense, and quite frankly his minor league pedigree says he will do better than that number.
We subscribe to the “can’t do any worse” theory, and Owen Miller, who came over in the Mike Clevinger deal last season, can’t be worse at first base than who Terry Francona writes in the lineup every day right now.
Is it an ideal situation to bring up a player who has played just 12 games at the AAA level? Of course not, you would like to see him get more at bats at that level. But it has been done before. Fernando Tatis Jr., although a much better prospect than Miller, never played at that level.
And for old school folks (like me), former Tribe manager Mike Hargrove came up to the Rangers after playing in A ball. If you can hit, you can hit. Since the Indians are starving for some consistency from anyone not named Jose Ramirez at the plate, it’s time to give Miller a shot.
This isn’t to say Owen Miller is the savior, we don’t want to put that kind of pressure on the young man. We are saying he’s likely better than at least one player in the lineup the Tribe is putting out there on a daily basis.