Springfield Cardinals 2011 Starter of Year

Shelby Miller's star is shining the brightest of a group of young Cardinals Double-A pitching prospects.

Springfield, much like Palm Beach, saw most of the top pitching talent in the system come through town. Only Carlos Martinez did not graduate to the Texas League by the end of the season. Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and John Gast all made their way in to the Springfield rotation and Jordan Swagerty was in the bullpen.

Of all the big names that rolled through Springfield, none brought as much attention as Shelby Miller. The expectations were set sky high for the 20-year-old righty. After posting a 2-3 record, with a 2.89 ERA in Palm Beach, Miller was promoted to Double-A. He made his first Texas League start on June 3, and pitched six innings, giving up just one run on seven hits while striking out five and walking two.

Miller made his home debut in front of a packed house on June 10. As what would begin to become a theme, Miller lived up to the expectations. He went six innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits, while striking out nine.

Tasked with proving himself to be something special in the prospect proving ground that is the Texas League, he did just that. Miller finished with a 9-3 record and owned a 2.70 ERA. He earned the Cardinal's Minor League Pitcher of the Month Award for June, after going 3-1 with a 1.69 ERA in five June starts. Miller's performance also earned his spot as a Texas League Post-Season All Star. After putting together a stunning 2011 season, he is sure to be near the top of many national prospect lists.

Showcasing an electric fastball that touched the high-90s consistently at Hammons Field, Miller proved to be a strikeout machine. He finished with 89 strikeouts in 86 2/3 innings, while walking just 33 for Springfield. Opponents compiled a meager .229 batting average.

For the second straight season, Miller posted better road numbers. In 2010, he was 1-3 with a 6.47 ERA in 10 home starts for Quad Cities, while going 6-2 with a 1.83 ERA away from Modern Woodmen Park. In 2011, Miller was 2-2 with a 3.93 ERA in eight home starts, and was 7-1 with a 1.80 ERA on the road for Springfield.

Minor League Baseball is about player development, both on field and off, and Shelby Miller had a few learning experiences. Miller was suspended by the St. Louis Cardinals in August for breaking team rules. After coming back from his suspension, Miller went 2-0, giving up just two earned runs in 17 innings of work, while notching 18 strikeouts.

Shelby Miller is one of the brightest stars to come through Springfield since the franchise came to town in 2005. He is certainly one of the highest-rated pitching prospects to play on Hammons Field. Miller is clearly a rising star. After putting together tremendous numbers for a player of any age in 2011, the now 21-year-old will likely be considered one of the top five prospects in all of Minor League Baseball as next season begins.

We are pleased to announce the selection of Miller as The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Springfield Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year for 2011.

Honorable Mention

Pitching was not one of the strong suits for Springfield in 2011. But Michael Blazek was a starter that often gave his team a chance to win the game. Taken in the 35th round of the 2007 draft, the 22-year-old led the team with 11 victories and in innings pitched, with 133 2/3. He also was first on the team with 128 strikeouts, and was just one strikeout back of the league leader (Matt Shoemaker of Arkansas).

Blazek finished with an 11-6 record, but a rather garish 5.45 ERA. Part of the problem was his inability to keep the ball in the ballpark. He led the Texas League in home runs allowed, with 25.

Blazek was named a Texas League All-Star and was even promoted to Memphis for a pair of spot starts. In those two starts in Triple-A, he went 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA.

Link to master article with all 2011 award winners, team recaps and article schedules.

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