SL notes: M's Miller offers options

Generals infielder continues to hit as he expands utility role

Jackson's Brad Miller has started games at shortstop, third base and second this season. (Ed Gardner)

By Guy Curtright / Special to | May 14, 2013 6:00 AM ET

Brad Miller's only experience at third base before this year came in the 2012 California-Carolina League All-Star Game, and it was only to allow Billy Hamilton to go all the way at shortstop.

"I was glad to do it," said Miller, the Mariners' No. 6 prospect. "I wanted to see Billy run as much as anyone."

Hamilton, who would set a Minor League record with 155 stolen bases, had two steals in the loss to the Carolina League, but Miller also stood out with a walk and a double in two plate appearances. Hamilton and Miller were both moved up to the Double-A Southern League shortly afterward, and each continued to do his thing -- one on the bases and another at the plate. But neither is confined to one position now.

Hamilton, the Reds' No. 1 prospect, is a center fielder at Triple-A Louisville. Miller, although still primarily a shortstop, is also seeing time at third as well as second base back at Jackson as the Mariners increase their options with the second-round choice from the 2011 Draft.

"It's been fun," said Miller of trying new positions. "I still picture myself as a shortstop, because that's where I've always played. But being able to move around can only help me."

It is at the plate, rather than in the field, where the 23-year-old former Clemson University star has always shined the brightest, though.

Miller, who came into this season with a .341 average in 151 Minor League games, batted .320 after being promoted to Jackson last season and was hitting .300 with 12 extra-base hits and 20 RBIs after 33 games this year.

Miller had 14 hits in his first 30 at-bats, went through a 1-for-26 slump and then got rolling again. The left-handed hitter was 8-for-16 in his past four games through Sunday and smashed a grand slam at Huntsville on Friday.

The Florida native, who hit .395 while being named ACC Player of the Year in his final season at Clemson, has 18 walks to 27 strikeouts and ranks sixth in the Southern League with an OPS of .875.

"He has a bright future," Jackson manager Jim Pankovits said. "He's been everything as advertised. He's a catalyst in the middle of our lineup."

While Miller ranked second in the Minors with 186 hits a year ago, he was also 10th in errors with 36. Most of the miscues came on throws. But the Mariners haven't soured on Miller at shortstop. They just want him to be able to play other infield spots as well.

"Being used to playing more than one position is a good opportunity," said Pankovits, a former Major League infielder. "You never know where an opening might come."

Miller got extensive playing time in Cactus League games with the Mariners this spring, and it was split nearly evenly around the infield. He got into eight games at shortstop, seven at third and six at second.

"It was cool," said Miller, who batted .255 with seven extra-base hits. "I looked at it as an opportunity, and I bought in completely. I take pride in my defense wherever I play, and I think I showed that I can play anywhere."

In brief

Streak snapped: Birmingham's 11-game winning streak came to an end with a 5-4 loss at Tennessee on Saturday. The streak was the longest for the Barons since 1989, when they won 14 in a row with current White Sox manager Robin Ventura as their third baseman. Right-handed pitcher Matt Garza, on a rehab assignment from the Cubs, started for the Smokies and didn't allow a run in 3 1/3 innings. Tennessee center fielder Matt Szczur, the Cubs' No. 10 prospect, had two hits, two RBIs and two stolen bases, while third baseman Christian Villanueva, ranked No. 8, had three hits, including two doubles.

Momentary lull: Jacksonville outfielder Christian Yelich had his 15-game hitting streak ended Friday by Pensacola, but bounced back to go 2-for-2 with two walks and two RBIs the next night against the Blue Wahoos. The Marlins' No. 2 prospect got off to a late start because of a foot injury, but hit .329 with 14 extra-base hits and 14 RBIs in his first 19 games for the Suns. Yelich, 21, had a five-hit game with two triples and a homer during his hitting streak. He is No. 13 among MLB's Top 100 Prospects.

Doing it all: Mobile hard-luck lefty David Holmberg pitched eight scoreless innings and drove in two runs at Chattanooga on Thursday to finally record his first victory of the season. The D-backs' No. 8 prospect allowed five hits, walked none and struck out eight. Holmberg (1-2) lowered his ERA to 1.98 and had 31 strikeouts to 13 walks over 41 innings in his seven starts. The 21-year-old was 2-for-3 with a double and also scored a run in the 5-2 victory by the BayBears.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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