Brad Miller was named 2011 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year after hitting five home runs in 56 games as a junior at Clemson. The Mariners prospect almost matched that total in his first week in the California League.
Miller went deep twice Sunday, giving him four homers in his first four games and powering the Class A Advanced High Desert Mavericks to an 8-6 triumph over the visiting Lancaster JetHawks.
After his 3-for-4, two-RBI performance Sunday, Seattle's No. 8 prospect owns the early league lead in hits (nine), homers (four), triples (two), RBIs (11), runs scored (nine), slugging percentage (1.500) and OPS (2.071).
Perhaps most striking about Miller's hot start is the
increase in power, a part of his game that the 22-year-old shortstop knew needed work heading into his first full professional season.
"When I came into pro ball, I knew I needed to get stronger," he said. "You're not going up against boys anymore, you're going up against men out there. I focused on trying to use my whole body and use everything I've got because I knew that's what it'd take to be good here."
That notion may especially ring true for the Cal League, where warm weather combines with high winds to produce inflated box scores. Miller, however, is not inclined to credit geography.
"It's definitely got that reputation, but I think we're all putting really good swings on the ball, too. It's not like we're getting lucky or anything," he said. "Hits are hits. We saw it [in Saturday's 16-2 rout of Lancaster]. Our pitchers were able to make some really good pitches and they did well because of it. You've got to earn it on either end of the game here."
Miller was the Mariners' second-round pick in last year's Draft after a stellar season at Clemson in which he led the ACC with a .395 batting average and .489 on-base percentage. He signed quickly enough to play in a few games at Class A Clinton, where he hit .415 with four doubles, a triple and seven RBIs in 14 games.
The Florida native just spent Spring Training at Minor League camp in Arizona, where he learned the most by simply watching and talking with the pros. He said his conversations with Mariners third baseman and former University of North Carolina star Kyle Seager stood out.
"It was cool to see how they prepare for a full season," Miller said. "You have to be a pro in everything you do, day in and day out. We were able to sit in on a couple of big league games and you just saw how consistent and professional they were."
The former first-team All-American has been consistently great in the early going, but he knows he can't get too comfortable.
"This game will get you if you're not focused," Miller said. "[High Desert manager Pedro Grifol] does a good job of keeping us grounded and making us take everything pitch by pitch, at-bat by at-bat. If you look too far ahead, you'll be catching yourself not giving all that you have."
Mike McGee and John Hicks each added two hits and an RBI for the Mavericks, who improved to 4-0.
Astros No. 10 prospect Telvin Nash homered twice and drove in three runs for Lancaster, while No. 3 prospect George Springer was 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored.