I am continuing my “Bold Prospect Comparisons” series with the St.Louis Cardinal’s top pitching prospect, Shelby Miller. Miller is a right-handed potential top of the rotation prospect that proved in September that this coming season will be his to own (sub 1.30 ERA and 18 k/9 in 13.2 IP).
Last year Shelby spent over 130 innings down in Memphis, Tennessee at the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate. While in Memphis, Miller somewhat disappointed with a higher ERA (4.74) than many expected out of him. The good news comes from his strikeout numbers. Miller continued to show that he can overpower and simply dominate hitters at a higher rate than one per inning. Miller is ranked #17 in the Seedlings To Stars Top 115 prospects in baseball. You can find it here.
A small flag may have been raised by those who constantly watched his 27 starts for the Memphis Redbirds. The right-hander tended to give up the long ball at a high rate. Unlike in past seasons where players were absolutely blown away by Shelby, mostly from A-AA, batters at the AAA level turned Mr. Miller’s mistakes into home runs.
With that being said, in the small dosage at the big league level, Shelby made hardly no mistakes for the Cardinals. While in Memphis during the month of August, Shelby Miller’s ERA was 3.16. He started fixing his mistakes and started hitting his spots with more consistency while grabbing the PCL Pitcher of the Week honors twice in the month of August. Miller’s K/9 also jumped up to 12.64 during that time. He carried that late momentum into St.Louis for the big league club.
In November, the St. Louis Cardinals’ General Manager John Mozeliak told the St.Louis Post-Dispatch that Shelby Miller would be invited back to spring training. After a season of watching Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal pass him by on the way to “The Show”, Miller has something to prove going into the 2013 season. Shelby will more than likely be competing for a rotation spot in March. I am personally confident that he will take advantage and start the year in the big league rotation for the Cards’.
Shelby has a plus fastball that sits around 93 to 94 MPH and he has shown the ability to gear up and let it loose at around 94-96 MPH. At times Miller shows a plus plus curveball as well. His CB is controlled well enough to make bats miss inside and outside of the zone. It has deceptively hard break as it comes close to the zone. His change-up is average at the moment. Sometimes you can see sink to it, but more times than not, the change-up is a change of pace pitch that works well.
Overall, Shelby Miller reminds me of two pitchers. The first is Matt Cain because of his frame and fastball. They are both 6’2″-6’3″ around 220lbs and like to use their fastballs and off-speed pitches in the same way. The biggest difference is that Miller is known for his curve, Cain is known for his slider. The second player that came to mind is Josh Beckett. Both are former Texas high school fire-balling pitchers with a fiery sense of competitiveness and two plus pitches, fastball and curveball. One of the biggest things I see in Beckett and Miller is their almost lackadaisical start in the wind-up.
I am not saying that Miller will have the same types of careers of Josh Beckett and Matt Cain, though it is not absolutely impossible that he does have those types of careers. As far as performance goes in the major leagues, I think Miller’s absolute ceiling is something like Josh Beckett. That being said, I think his absolute floor is being a set-up reliever for a team instead of facing guys more than once through. Bottom line: I think Miller will become a big piece of the cardinals’ future rotation along with organizational-mate Trevor Rosenthal.