Ian Miller’s red-hot spring places him on Cubs radar
Ian Miller might be the breakout player from Cubs camp this spring.
The 28-year-old outfielder came to Arizona on a non-roster invite and has put together a strong case to crack the Opening Day roster, especially now that every team has an extra spot.
Miller leads the Cactus League with 8 stolen bases in 15 games while hitting .375 with a .459 on-base percentage and .928 OPS. He’s driven in 5 runs and scored 9, bringing a level of disruption on the basepaths the Cubs currently don’t have elsewhere on the roster.
As Cubs manager David Ross joined Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies during Sunday’s broadcast, they were discussing the speedy outfielder and right on cue, Miller stole second base.
“He can do a lot with his legs and that’s something we haven’t had around here in a long time,” Ross said. “He’s an exciting player. I love that he’s starting to bunt a little bit more. I want him to pick his spots. I think he can be a guy that can really impact us, whether he breaks camp with us or at some point in the season. Guys like that don’t come around often. It’s really nice to have that in the bag, especially these close games or late in the game, to be able to put a guy like that in the game.”
Where Miller fits on the roster is a bit tougher to discern, as the Cubs currently have five players slated for the outfield on the Opening Day roster — Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, Albert Almora Jr. and Steven Souza Jr.
Miller can play all three outfield spots and hits left-handed in addition to everything he brings with his legs, but the Cubs probably would prefer to carry an extra infielder or catcher rather than a sixth outfielder.
Still, like Ross said, Miller represents a really nice depth option later in the year if injury hits the big league outfield or the Cubs decide they could really utilize his impact on the basepaths. We’ve seen how speed can give this roster a boost before, with Terrance Gore’s brief stint on the 2018 Cubs when he stole 7 bases as a specialized pinch-runner.
Miller has never hit for much power in the minor leagues and only has 12 MLB games under his belt (all of which came last season on the Twins), but he’s always been able to get on base and swipe a bag. He posted a .346 OBP in Triple-A last year with 35 stolen bases and was just as successful in 2018 (.333 OBP, 33 SBs).