Friday, December 5, 2008

37. Jai Miller

37. Jai Miller - Outfield - 6'4 - 195lbs - Throws: Right - Bats: Right
(last year: 18)

Jai Miller was the first three sport All Star in Alabama prep history. He had signed a letter of intent to go to Stanford, where he would play wide receiver and point guard for the Cardinal. The Marlins drafted him in the 4th round (113) of the 2003 amateur draft. He fell a bit because teams believed he really wanted to play the other two sports in college. Area scout Dave Dangler had a strong relationship with Jai’s father, and this allowed the Marlins to sign him for $250,000. Jai has had much to deal with, as his mother and grandmother were tragically killed in a car accident, but he decided to continue on his dream to play professional baseball. Based on size alone, the 6′4 right hander has drawn many comparisons to former Marlins outfielder, Preston Wilson. Blessed with a quick pair of hands Jai has fantastic bad speed. There isn’t a fastball that can be thrown by him. Unfortunately, opposing pitchers know this, so they throw him a steady diet of breaking balls. Miller was rated as having 70 speed (20-80 scale). He has been timed as fast as 4.05 from home to first base. Even though he has that tremendous speed, this has not translated into a great stolen base success rate. His problem is that he doesn’t get good enough jumps from first base, but he has been working on this.

In 2006, Jai took a new approach with him to Jupiter. Instead of swinging for the fences as he had done in his first four season in the minors, he decided to just concentrate on putting the ball in play. On the one hand, his strikeouts went down for the third straight year (163-139-115) but on the flipside, he hit zero homeruns. We all know the Florida State League isn’t exactly a hitter’s paradise, but was a bit alarming that he couldn’t even “luck” into a homerun. While he still struck out much too often, he still showed an ability to get on base via the walk. From 2005-2007, Jai’s walk rate (OBP-AVG) has been .098, .099 and .093 which are all well above average. The bad part is that he can't seem to hit a high enough average where his walk rate can boost his OBP towards the .370-.380 range. Never projected as a batting champion, I said before the season that he would need to hit atleast .260 with power in order to become a legit prospect in my eyes. 2007 was somewhat of a breakout for Jai as he hit .261/.354/.438 in his Southern League (AA) debut.

Because of his world class speed, Jai tends to drift under balls, instead of running to a spot and waiting for the ball to get there. He has a very strong arm, although he has an odd grip which tends to make the ball fade a bit. He has no problems running to either side, or straight back to the wall, but he needs to improve coming in on low liners and bloops. Miller’s 2008 season was somewhat disappointing considering he played in the Pacific Coast League. With the Marlins doing their spring cleaning early, there’s a potential bench spot to be had and if not, he could get a call early on if there is an injury. He has the luxury of being on the 40 man roster, so he could get a look before other higher touted prospects. Jai should begin the season in the Marlins new AAA affiliate, New Orleans.

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