The Philadelphia Phillies signed journeyman utility player Brad Miller to a one-year contract in February. He has far exceeded all expectations during the first two months of the season.
Miller has started 29 games at six different positions and is hitting .318 — good for second on the team — with five home runs and 13 RBI. He leads the Phillies with a .534 slugging percentage and .909 OPS.
Manager Joe Girardi has leaned on Miller as his most reliable bench player in the early months of the season — during which regulars Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Didi Gregorius have missed significant time with injuries.
The Phillies are lucky to have ‘Bamboo’ Brad Miller
Miller has played nine major league seasons with six different teams, and he is in his second stint with the Phillies. After being plucked from the New York Yankees farm system by former general manager Matt Klentak in June 2019, he hit .263 with 12 home runs and a .941 OPS in 66 games before moving to the St. Louis Cardinals in the offseason.
His first stint with the Phillies is perhaps better remembered for a quirky story that occurred shortly after he was acquired. Following a brutal, 6-15 mid-June stretch, he brought life to a flat clubhouse via a bamboo plant that he purchased in Chinatown. The Phillies swept the New York Mets in a four-game home series in dramatic fashion immediately after. The superstition quickly caught on in Philadelphia, but eventually faded down the stretch.
Bamboo Brad’s offensive production and favorable personality made the low-risk acquisition a success, and his reputation factored into his return to the organization in 2021.
Phillies Depth in Question
Miller will likely continue to play a significant role as a starter while the Phillies’ big names recover from their respective injuries. His versatility will allow him plenty of at-bats through the rest of the season as a pinch-hitter, spot starter, and option to enter the lineup in any capacity when the DH is used in American League parks.
The Phillies’ bench is thin, even with a fully healthy lineup. Catcher Andrew Knapp — who is hitting well below the Mendoza line — is relied on heavily as a pinch-hitter, while most backup catchers in the MLB are used very sparingly off the bench. They’ve gotten very little otherwise from their reserves this season, outside of a good showing from rookie Nick Maton.
Miller is Girardi’s most viable bench option by a considerable margin, as he has hit .375 in 16 at-bats as a pinch-hitter. The Phillies have been given good reason to be optimistic about “Bamboo Brad,” but they should be cautious of a potential “return to earth” for a player whose numbers over a two-month stretch exceed his career averages.
President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski should be in the market to acquire a right-handed option off the bench to complement Miller and provide flexibility for Girardi for the remainder of the season.