It’s easy to forget about the guys we already have in the system immediately after the draft. Especially when they play the same position as the top two prospects in your system such as Khalil Lee and Seuly Matias who are having really good seasons. But don’t forget about outfielder Anderson Miller at Northwest Arkansas.
Miller is having a solid season in Springdale and has been hot lately. What he has been doing is why the Royals made Miller a top 100 pick going 98th overall in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft. At the time, he was coming off a great season at Western Kentucky. Miller was top 10 in the conference in runs scored, triples, home runs, walks, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. He was also a great defender making only one error that year. Miller had the pedigree playing well in the Cape. The Royals saw the potential of an everyday outfielder at the major league level and made the pick.
Miller isn’t known for one skill more than another such as elite power or speed, but he is a solid all around player. His junior year at Western Kentucky described above is a perfect example of that. A great way to sum him up as a player is this quote from one of his 2015 draft articles in which he was talking about himself. “Consistency is what I would say. You know what you’re going to get from me day in and day out.” Take a look at his season right now. Miller has been very consistent. He has not had more than two consecutive starts in which he has not recorded a hit this season. Anderson is in the middle or above for most offensive stats on the Naturals including second in home runs with seven.
Miller is a consistent provider who has played really well recently. In the last month Miller has hit .336, has 4 doubles, a triple, 5 home runs, 18 runs, 19 RBI, 10 BBs, and 17 Ks. In his last 10 games, Miller is hitting .366 with 15 hits to only 3 strikeouts.
If you break his season down into 10 game segments, there is a big change around game 30. Miller starts walking and stops striking out so much. This is also around the 90 game mark in double-A for Miller’s career. Perhaps he has finally acclimated to pitching at this level or he just got hot after a cold start. One would like to think it was due to the learning curve at the new level.
When you look at his tools, nothing from Miller jumps off the page at you. Miller has good, but not great, power. He has speed, but not elite speed. He has a really good arm and plays really good defense but isn’t an elite defender like Alex Gordon (few are). Miller has good contact but has battled some strikeouts in his career. The hit tool is solid. He does pull the ball but will use the middle and opposite field as well. Looking at his 2018 hit chart from MLBFarm.com, you can see Miller gets the majority of his hits to the pull side and up the middle.
One thing I’ve noticed from watching Miller is that he likes to swing early in the count. If he gets the pitch he wants early, he doesn’t let it go. The power is a little sneaky and he can take the extra base.
The biggest thing Miller needed to do coming into this season was cut down on the Ks. For the first month of this season he was striking out in 25% of his at bats and struck out in the first 8 games of the year. Over the last month, the strikeout rate has been right around 15% and the batting average has been .336. So far this season as a whole, he has struck out in 19.3% of his at bats. This isn’t a terrible number by any means and he has really made strides on the strikeout rate. Miller has not struck out more than once in a game since May 31. It is not a surprise to see his production skyrocket as he gets more consistent contact.
Miller does have some pretty extreme splits that need to be noted and addressed. On the road, Miller has hit just .210 this season. His road line is .210/.260/.360/.620. Miller is running more on the road as evidenced by 6 stolen bases in 7 attempts. At home, Miller’s line is .350/.410/.540/.940 with just 1 stolen base in 5 attempts. Part of this home/road split issue is because of Miller’s slow start and the majority of the first month for the Naturals was spent on the road. The Naturals spent 15 of their first 24 games away from Arvest Ballpark. Of the first month, 19 games were on the road. You can’t say that Miller heated up because he was at home but you can’t say it wasn’t part of the reason he started getting hot either.
Most people outside of Kentucky haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to Anderson Miller’s professional career. It’s time to start watching to see if Miller turns into what he can become. Miller has a very good chance to become a future everyday big league outfielder. Miller has been playing LF for the Naturals with Donnie Dewees in center and Elier Hernandez in right but is not limited to that position. Miller will probably spend some time in the Arizona Fall League either this year or next year. If he passes prospect school, it is not inconceivable to think Miller could be major league ready right as Alex Gordon is driving into the 2020 sunset.