Chicago Cubs: Ian Miller trying to make the most of his opportunity

Chicago Cubs, Ian Miller (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Chicago Cubs, Ian Miller (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /
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Ian Miller was a long shot to make the Chicago Cubs roster coming into camp, yet he’s been making a name for himself early on this spring.

If you have been following the Chicago Cubs early on this spring, you may have noticed an unfamiliar name getting some starts in left field and the number nine spot in the batting order. Though Ian Miller was, at best, a long shot at making the Cubs’ roster at the beginning of camp, he’s been getting some opportunities in the Cactus League and is making the most of it.

It went mostly unnoticed, but the Cubs signed the 28-year-old Miller, who bats left-handed and throws right-handed, to a minor league deal back on December 18. It was one of many bargain bin signings the Cubs made this offseason, hoping that a few of them might work out.

Miller was a 14th round pick of the Seattle Mariners back in 2013, and though he slowly climbed the ranks of the Mariners’ system over several years, he never made it to the majors with them. Instead, during the 2019 season, the Mariners sold him to the Minnesota Twins. He then got to the majors with the Twins and batted 3-for-17.

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The Cubs’ signing of Miller was for organizational depth; perhaps they saw him as a guy who could potentially come off the bench as a pinch-runner. He’s always had tons of speed, swiping 243 bases in seven minor league seasons. He’s gotten on base at a decent clip in the minors, with an OBP of .340, though he’s hit for little power.

With major league rosters expanding to 26 this year, there’s been a lot of speculation that teams could use that extra roster spot for a guy with speed. The Cubs have given Miller a good look so far this spring, and he’s impressed, going 7-for-17 at the plate with two walks, two doubles, three RBIs, and five stolen bases.

Miller still faces an uphill climb to make the Opening Day roster, with Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., Jason Heyward, Ian Happ, and Steven Souza Jr. all ahead of him on the depth chart. Still, should there be an injury, or should David Ross decide that Miller’s speed could be an asset and that the team can afford to carry six outfielders, Miller could have a shot to make the team? Miller has primarily played center field in the minors, though he’s seen time at all three outfield spots.

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There’s still a lot of spring training to go, so it’s hard to say whether Miller can keep up his fast start. Even his ability to make the most of his opportunity has been a big story of spring training early on. Hopefully, he can continue his excellent start and at least make for a difficult decision for Ross.