At the top of the Yankees’ Christmas list, at least when it comes to the starting lineup, consists primarily of three things. Number one, a starting shortstop, because right now third baseman Gio Urshela is slotted into that position. Number two, a left-handed hitter, because at the moment the team has just two left-handed hitters, Joey Gallo and Aaron Hicks (a switch-hitter). Number three, a backup infielder, because at the moment, the Yankees do not have a backup infielder with major league experience on the 40-man roster.
Although he does not have the defensive capability to play shortstop anymore (and it’s fair to question whether or not he ever did), Brad Miller might be able to fill two of those three holes as a bat off the bench. After dominating the International League as a member of the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton Railriders, in 41 games during the 2019 season, Miller has become one of the better-hitting infielders in the league. His 115 wRC+ ranks 96th in baseball over that span, ahead of Gallo, Trevor Story, and Alex Verdugo, while his 39 home runs are tied with Alex Bregman and Christian Yelich. That’s pretty good company to be in, I’d say — particularly for a backup infielder.
His Statcast numbers are even more impressive.
Miller’s average exit velocity of 92.4 mph was higher than JD Martinez, José Abreu, Freddie Freeman, and Joey Gallo. His 12.3 barrel percentage, meanwhile, surpassed Freeman, Abreu, José Ramírez, Jared Walsh, and Carlos Correa. While exit velocity and barrel percentage are not everything, to be associated with these players in these particular categories would be very good for a starter, and absolutely phenomenal for a role player. Add on the fact that he walks a ton, and he basically screams, “Quintessential Yankee.”
Oh, and let me remind you again that he does all this from the left side of the plate, which would give the Yankees the lefty infielder that they are currently sorely lacking.
Defensively, Miller is...present on the field, and can do so in multiple positions: over the past three years, he has played 392 innings at first base, 172 at second, 232 at third, 10 at shortstop, and 238 in the outfield corners. He’s not all that proficient at any of them, however.
The fact that he can technically play these positions, though, makes him a perfect fit for the Yankee bench. In essence, he could be a left-handed DJ LeMahieu, capable of playing an everyday or mostly-everyday role by filling in at a variety of different positions. That is exactly what he did with the Phillies both in 2019 and 2021 (and, to a lesser extent, in 2020 with the Cardinals, although he spent half that season as the team’s designated hitter).
If there’s one thing to truly worry about, it’s the drastic reduction in offensive performance this past season over his previous two, because without his bat, Miller becomes a left-handed Gleyber Torres instead of a left-handed LeMahieu. After slashing .247/.343/.510 in 127 games from 2019-2020 (good for a 125 OPS+) with 20 home runs, Miller’s line dropped to .227/.321/.453 with 20 home runs in 140 games as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2021. Part of this can be accounted for by a three-percent increase in strikeout percentage and a three-percent decrease in walk percentage, which contributed to his lower on-base percentage. Part of this also comes from a batting average in 2021 that was 20 points lower than his xBA of .247. Given Miller’s age — he will be entering his age-32 season — it’s impossible not to worry that 2021 represented the beginning of the end for him, but at this point, I would not be overly concerned.
At the end of the day, outside the top of the free agent market, it’s hard to find a better fit for the Yankees lineup than Brad Miller. As a left-handed power bat with some speed capable of playing throughout the infield, the veteran infielder would provide the perfect replacement for Tyler Wade as the team utility knife and the ideal complement to LeMahieu. He might not be a big splash, but by deepening the bench, he would make the Yankees a better team.