Is Shelby Miller Growing Up?

Comparing off-season remarks from the St. Louis Cardinals' top prospect about his next assignments.

In a recent Springfield News-Leader article, the St. Louis Cardinals top pitching prospect, Shelby Miller, was profiled at the completion of his 2011 season.


It was a year that culminated with an outstanding performance by the 20-year-old as he allowed no runs on two hits while fanning nine Tulsa Drillers over eight innings in his final start of 2011.


Earlier, Miller had earned a promotion from Palm Beach, where he was a Florida State League mid-season all-star and appeared in the All-Star Futures Game for the second consecutive summer. The right-hander was the organization's May Pitcher of the Month and earned the same honor in June from The Cardinal Nation.


On the other side of the coin, 2011 also included an eight-day suspension last month for off-the-field conduct.


The News-Leader article concluded with a quote from Miller that both surprised and pleased me.


"I don't know what's going to happen next year," Miller said. "I feel like I'm not going to start any lower than Double-A. But wherever I go, I'll compete and keep trying my best."


In other words, the pitcher is only confident that he will not start out next season at a lower level than this one. Normally, that would not be a noteworthy comment. But Miller is not a normal prospect.


With the young Texan never having been short of confidence, I couldn't help but wonder if his recent bump in the road was a milestone in his maturity process.


In exhibit, I offer Miller's remarks from the previous two off-seasons, during which his goals for the next year were focused on aggressive advancement that later proved to be unrealistic.


In 2009 after signing, Miller had pitched a grand total of three innings with Class-A Quad Cities before the season ended. Though he knew he had to return for 2010, he didn't expect to stay long.


Miller in March 2010: "Hopefully, I will stay about a month at Quad Cities, perform well and get up to high-A and maybe by the end of the year, have a couple of games at Double-A and just be back at big league camp next year."


It didn't happen that way. Miller not only did not reach Springfield, he didn't even make it to Palm Beach. Remaining with Quad Cities all summer long in 2010, Miller performed well. In fact, it was enough for him to be named the organization's Pitcher of the Year in his first full season on a professional mound.


Miller hoped to use his 2010 success as a springboard to leap over Palm Beach this season.


Miller in January 2011: "My stated goal this year is pretty much to stay healthy. I will come out of spring training hopefully with the Double-A team (Springfield). That is really the goal I have set for myself. I know it is a huge leap for a 20-year-old, but there is no reason I could not pitch in Double-A right now. I would feel totally comfortable there…"


Instead, Miller was assigned to Palm Beach. He remained there until Memorial Day weekend. Miller was actually not the first, but was the second member of the Florida State League club rotation to make the step to Double-A this season. Maikel Cleto preceded him by almost a month.


There is little doubt that Miller's status as a first-rounder, having received a $2.875 million signing bonus, leaves him open to greater scrutiny. An example is my recollection and cataloguing of these annual remarks.


Though it is just one sample, the comparison indicates to me progress is being made. Along with Miller's mound growth continuing on schedule, his external remarks seem to indicate a growing level of maturity, as well. 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column on Thursdays at Follow Brian on Twitter.

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