Visalia, California —— It’s truly been a breakout year for Jalen Miller this summer, his second with the San Jose Giants of the High-A California League.
Where the San Francisco Giants second base prospect slashed just .227/.283/.346/.628 with 25 doubles and six home runs over 117 games with San Jose a year ago, he’s already produced 26 doubles and 12 homers this season, along with a better slash line across the board (.289/.329/.472/.801) and far more consistent production later in the year. That’s a big change from Miller’s first few pro seasons, where the Georgia native has started hot, cooled off quickly, and never quite shown the ability to re-adjust to pitchers who had been adjusting to him mid-season.
But 2018 tells the story of a completely different player, for Jalen Miller has figured out how to make those re-adjustments in this year’s second half up in San Jose, and his top-of-the-lineup bat — along with some impressive pop, even for the Cal League — has the 21-year-old surging for the Giants, and well on the way to a shot at Double-A, and beyond.
We’ve spoken to Jalen Miller several times over the last year, so catching up last week in Visalia made for a nice full-circle conversation about the nature of his development for the San Francisco Giants, and where he goes from here. The second baseman credits time in instructional league last fall to his sustained breakout this summer; similarly, changes to his stance and swing mechanics have Miller more athletic at the plate and more able to flash sneaky power and good bat speed.
At this point, Miller has to be taken seriously as a potential future everyday second baseman for the San Francisco Giants. His defensive work has been further refined in the last six months, and his bat is finally producing what the club had been hoping for to feasibly expect a path forward to the big leagues. Below, here’s Jalen Miller, in his own words, discussing the differences between his (true) breakout campaign this year and some of the up-and-down summers he’d sustained in the recent past:
Jalen Miller on the changes he made to his swing over the winter:
“I really worked hard on simplifying my swing in the offseason, and that all came from me going to instructs [fall instructional league] after last season. As much as I didn’t want to go, it really helped me out, I think maybe more than anything else in my career so far. I got a lot more 1-on-1 time with coaches there, I was really able to talk hitting, and figure out some things I needed to change, and I really developed an approach from there that, so far, I’ve been able to stick to this year. Now, with my swing being so simple, when something goes wrong I have seven key points that I look at. All I have to do is go back and look through some video, figure out the adjustment, and go out and get it done. It’s a lot easier.”
“I’m a little taller in the box this year. For me, it’s a more athletic position. I like having my hands a little bit higher where they are now. I modeled it after Mike Trout, and a little bit of [Andrew] Benintendi from the left side, they both keep it pretty tall and simple. One of the rovers at instructs was very vocal about it. He was like, ‘OK, let’s try this out,’ and at that point of course, I was open to anything after not having that successful of a season last year. I tried it out, and suddenly, everything clicked. I felt like an athlete in that position, and I felt like it was sustainable. You can get up there and think you’re being athletic in many different ways, but you still have to go out there and repeat it, you know? And the swing that I have now, it feels like if I were just playing some pickup game in the backyard, this is how I would swing it. I think that helps it out a lot.”
Jalen Miller on maturing and growing from a tough 2017 season:
“The competitive side in me was not happy at the end of last year. I know that I could have helped this team win more games, and I did not want that to be a factor this year. Especially repeating this league, I knew I had to step it up a notch. And I definitely didn’t want to get complacent. I wanted to be in discussions for going to the All-Star Game this year — which I accomplished, which was one of my goals. And I want to be in the discussion to maybe go to the [Arizona] Fall League after the season. I want to be talked about for those kinds of things this year, not the ‘well, he did this OK, but he didn’t do this very well, but he’s young, so it’s OK’ kind of discussion.”
“I do feel a year older, and that extra year of maturity, I know it’s coming into play for me, especially at the plate. Looking back on it, sometimes, it’s like ‘man, I don’t know what I was trying to do last year.’ Now, this is more in line with the player I want to be, and the player I expect of myself. I want to be known as a start-hot, finish-hot guy. I don’t want to be the guy who starts hot and then fades and struggles all year. This [second] half, we started on the road in Rancho, and you could tell they had a book on me, and I struggled a little bit. But I was able to pull myself out of it pretty quickly, it was a lot faster than what I would’ve been able to do last year. It took me like four games to really get past that mini-slump this year, where as last year it would’ve taken me 20 games to do the same thing.”
Jalen Miller on how instructs boosted his career path last offseason:
“Being a high school guy, they tell you that you might have to go three years in instructs. And going again for me last year, it was a wake-up call. You know you don’t want to put yourself in that position any more, especially after a full season and that whole grind. But I took everything a lot more seriously at instructs this past year. and I knew it needed to stick. Typically when you get done with instructs, that’s when you get a little break, but I knew that when I went through that break I wanted to be able to recall everything I had done at instructs, and then repeat it through the offseason and into spring training.”
It says something good about Jalen Miller to hear how effusively his San Jose teammates praise him. There’s no shortage of guys on that roster who have good things to say about Miller, from newcomer Bryce Johnson acknowledging that he game plans pitchers based on Miller’s tips, to fellow 2017 holdovers Heath Quinn and Gio Brusa giving glowing reviews about the changes Miller made offensively this offseason.
Gio Brusa on Jalen Miller:
“I credit a lot of his success this year to what he went through last year, being a young guy in this league. A lot of us had tough years last year, but he really grinded it out, and kept grinding it out. This year, he’s seeing a lot of the fruit of last year’s labor, persevering through the tough stuff. This year, it’s fun to watch. He’s comfortable being him, and that’s all he has to be. He’s having fun, he’s being himself, and you can see that in the results he’s putting up on the field.”
“Sometimes I’ll have a ball hit to my right, and I’m like, ‘oh, that’s for sure a hit,’ and I turn around and sure enough, the ball is on its way to me at first. Being up close to really see the amount of hits he takes away, and just his consistency doing everything at second base, that’s really impressive. It’s something that I as a new first baseman would like to be able to get to at some point.”
Heath Quinn on Jalen Miller:
“We’re all obviously cheering for each other. I mean, yeah, we’re here and we are trying to move up, but we all genuinely like each other and we like playing with each other, so when we’re all here, I know we all want to win for each other. We’re really close too, the three of us [Quinn, Miller, Brusa], so it makes it easy for us to root for each other and kind of have each other’s backs, and Jalen is my roommate, so we are definitely close and tight with each other. I really pull for him. I want to win with him.”
“Jalen has always been a really good hitter. Thing is, he’s got really quick hands, but I think this year he’s become more selective around the strike zone. He takes a lot of pitcher’s pitches. And now his confidence is really high. I think he’s going to keep hitting all year, he’s only scratched the surface.”
For more on San Francisco Giants 2B Jalen Miller…
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