Jai Miller Deserves Extended Shot in Oakland A's Outfield Remainder of 2011

Brandon McClintock@@BMcClintock_BSNCorrespondent IJuly 24, 2011

PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 12:  Jai Miller #58 of the Oakland Athletics watches from the dugout during the spring training game against the Seattle Mariners at Peoria Stadium on March 12, 2011 in Peoria, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Perhaps the two most underrated moves of the last two seasons for the Oakland A's involve the same player now destroying minor league pitching in Triple-A Sacramento.

Jai Miller, the fourth round draft pick of the Florida Marlins in 2003, joined the Oakland Athletics organization after being claimed off waivers from the Marlins on April 8, 2010.

The A's designated Miller for assignment after just 10 games with the River Cats, where he batted just .118 in 37 plate appearances.

He was claimed by the Kansas City Royals and played 84 games for their Triple-A affiliate in Omaha.

Miller batted .267 with 18 homers in his stint with Omaha in the Pacific Coast League.

He was also called up to the Royals where he appeared in 20 games, collecting his first major league hit and home run.

He was granted his free agency on November 6 and re-signed with the Athletics on November 17.

The A's decision to bring Miller back for a second tour with the River Cats has payed off this season.

A two-sport letter of intent signee (football as a wide receiver and basketball as a point guard) at Stanford prior to signing with the Marlins following the 2003 draft, Miller possesses the athleticism to play any of the three outfield positions.

His strong arm and defensive instincts have seen him play the majority of his 913 minor league games in either center or right field.

His talents with a bat are what make him an incredibly attractive option in the outfield to A's fans though.

In 75 games this year he is batting .280/.383/.653 (1.036 OPS) with a team high 25 homers and 64 RBIs.

Miller possesses Major League power, but scouts have said he has a hole in his swing. Perhaps more accurately, though, is the impression that Miller's approach at the plate is all-or-nothing, as his 115 strike outs in 316 plate appearances (268 official at-bats) demonstrate.

Despite his strike out ratio, he still has a .383 on-base percentage, a mark better than Josh Willingham (.317), David DeJesus (.317) and Coco Crisp (.319) so far this season.

His batting-average-on-balls-in-play (BABIP) is an amazing .490 as well (subtract his 115 strikeouts from his 268 at-bats, and divide his 75 hits by the remaining 153 at-bats). A positive of his high strike out totals is that he has only grounded into four double-plays all season.

Of his 75 hits, 46 have been for extra bases with 17 doubles and four triples to go along with his 25 homers.

Miller could follow the career path of another former A's slugger. When the A's acquired Jack Cust from the San Diego Padres in the middle of the 2007 season, he was a career minor leaguer who possessed a powerful bat but large strikeout totals.

The similarities stop there though.

Cust was a butcher in the field with a .959 fielding percentage in the minors (.968 in the majors, largely aided by time spent at DH), while Miller is athletic and has the ability to make spectacular plays in the field. His career fielding percentage in the minors is .974 (.971 in his 21 career Major League games).

Cust would go on to hit 97 homers with the A's from 2007-2010.

Miller could step in and fill a similar role, splitting time between the three outfield positions while the A's continue to develop Grant Green into a center fielder, and allow Michael Choice to develop through the minor league levels at a less rushed pace.

He also serves as insurance if Michael Taylor does not live up to the hype that surrounded his acquisition in exchange for Brett Wallace two offseasons ago.

He has yet to be added to the 40-man roster, but trades could open a position for him and pave the way for a trip to Oakland. Brett Anderson could also be transferred to the 60-day disabled list to open a spot for Miller.

With Josh Willingham, David DeJesus and Coco Crisp all on the trading block, Miller could, and should, be one of the first players called up to see playing time in Oakland.


This article is also featured on Bayseball.com.


Brandon McClintock covers the Oakland Athletics and Major League Baseball for BleacherReport.com. You can follow him on Twitter:     @BMcClintock_BR.