30 Prospects in 30 Days: Shelby Miller – SP – St. Louis Cardinals
Shelby Miller was drafted out of high school in the first round of the 2009 draft (#19 overall) by the St. Louis Cardinals. Miller is a right-hander with good size (6’3”, 195 lbs) who offers an above-average fastball and curveball to go along with a changeup that has the potential to be an above average pitch as well. He enters the season rated as the #2 prospect in the St. Louis system by both Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America behind only Oscar Taveras. Keith Law has him ranked #21 in his top 100 prospects for 2013.
Miller started his minor league career with an excellent 104 innings at low-A in 2010. His K% was 31.9% and his BB% was 7.5% to give him an excellent K%-BB% of 24.4%. His ERA was a bit inflated at 3.71 thanks to a high BABIP and low strand rate, but his FIP was a solid 2.42. He started 2011 at high-A and was even more dominant than the year before as he struck out 37% of the batters he faced and posted an ERA under 3.00 in 53 innings. That earned him a quick promotion to AA where he posted an ERA under 3.00 again over 86.2 innings. The strikeout percentage dropped but was still a solid 25%, and his control faltered a bit as he walked over three batters per nine at both levels in 2011.
He spent all of 2012 at AAA, and if you look at his final line for the season, you might not understand why Miller is a good bet to start this season with the Cardinals. He had an ugly ERA of 4.74 (4.48 FIP) and gave up 24 home runs in just 136.2 innings. But if you look at his splits, you can see that Miller started to figure out the level by the end of the year. In his final 37.1 innings at AA he posted a 2.89 ERA with a 36.6% K% and a 2.8% BB% to give him an absolutely absurd 33.8% K%-BB%.
Because of the injury concerns in the Cardinals rotation with Chris Carpenter out indefinitely and Jaime Garcia questionable to start the season, Miller is a good bet to break camp with the big league club. And given his talent and track record, he’s a pretty good bet to stick for the whole season. Long term he has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, but for now he figures to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy.
As mentioned, his control has been average at the upper levels of the minors, and that will be the part of his game that will determine how long his adjustment period will be. Until he figures out how to limit the free passes, his upside is limited. But he plays on a good team in a good park for pitchers and has a good ability to miss bats, so a decent win total, an above average strikeout rate, and average ratio stats seem within the realm of possibility. That means he’s not quite a mixed league play (10-12 teams), but he does have immediate value in deeper leagues (16-team mixed, NL-only).
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