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Miller lets bat, glove do talking

Don't be fooled by the modest frame or soft-spoken personality. When it comes to baseball, there's nothing unassuming about Mike Miller.

The 5-foot-8, 160-pound Peninsula Oilers shortstop is in the middle of a booming season.

"I'm not a guy that will get in anyone's face, just pretty quiet," said Miller, 21, in his second year with the Oilers. "I try to lead by example. I try to work hard and keep my mouth shut for the most part."

Miller, a senior-to-be at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in California, is a front-runner to win the Alaska Baseball League's Most Valuable Player award.

When the most recent ABL statistics were released July 16, Miller was the league's leading hitter with a .412 average. Logan Davis of the Anchorage Bucs was second at .310.

Miller also had the most runs (15), hits (35) and doubles (seven), was tied for the lead in triples (two) and shared third in RBIs (12).

And then there's this: Miller, the Oilers' leadoff hitter, owned a .500 on-base percentage, a .534 slugging percentage and had 47 total bases through Monday, all team bests.

"Mike is hands down the best player in this league," Oilers coach Dennis Machado said. "There isn't a shortstop in this league that even comes close."

There's more.

As of Monday, Miller boasted a .977 fielding percentage on 128 chances at shortstop, which is one of the most demanding positions on the diamond, and he had connected on 12 double plays.

"What he's able to do defensively for us is irreplaceable," Machado said. "When you have a guy that quarterbacks your defense as good as Mike does, it really takes a lot of pressure off the pitching staff."

Best illustrating his contribution to the squad is the performance Miller delivered in an 8-1 win against the Athletes in Action Fire on June 24.

The right-hander went 4 for 4 with a double, triple and two RBIs, reached base safely in all six plate appearances, stole a base, scored two runs and registered eight putouts.

It's no surprise that sort of production - on both sides of the ball - caught the attention of his teammates.

"It's awesome that you've got a guy back there who is definitely going to help you out," starting pitcher John Maciel said. "With the bat, he's been phenomenal."

Ask Machado, or Miller himself, and there's no secret to the shortstop's success.

At Cal Poly, Miller fields 150 ground balls before every game.

This season with the Oilers, Machado said Miller is usually one of the first players to arrive for early batting practice.

"As hard as he works on ground balls is as hard as he works on his offensive game," Machado said. "You see him hitting and hitting and hitting and hitting. It's no surprise he is where he is."

Like most of his teammates, Miller hopes to one day play Major League Baseball. His chances appear reasonable based on statistics.

Machado compared Miller to former Anchorage Glacier Pilots star Drew Heid, who Machado coached in 2009. Heid hit .400-plus with the Pilots that year and had a work ethic similar to Miller, Machado said.

Heid went on to get drafted by the Anaheim Angels in the ninth round of the 2010 MLB Draft.

Former Oilers shortstop Tyler Grimes, to whom Miller deferred playing time last season, was drafted in the fifth round.

Miller's numbers are on par with what Grimes posted in 2010. Grimes led the league in runs and stolen bases, hitting .288.

Miller has been contacted by some scouts, but nothing has come to fruition.

For now, the quiet leader is focused on finishing the season strong and having an efficient senior campaign in college.

"Every player's dream is to play at the next level. I would love that opportunity whenever it presents itself," Miller said. "But right now I'm just focused on being the best shortstop I can be here and then having that translate into being the best shortstop I can be at Cal Poly."