TCN 2012 Cards Prospect #1: Shelby Miller

There is no suspense in re-crowning the St. Louis Cardinals top prospect for another year. Today's report is FREE!

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2011 and career stats)

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
1 RHS 10/10/1990 6-3 207 R R 2009 1

School: Brownwood High School, Texas

Selected 2011 stats

PB 2 3 2.89 9 9 0 53 40 20 2 20 81 0.55 0.204
SPR 9 3 2.7 16 16 0 86.2 72 28 2 33 89 0.85 0.229
Total 11 6 2.77 25 25 0 139 112 48 4 53 170 0.74 0.219

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (1): Shelby Miller is not only the Cards' top prospect, he is one of the top 10 in all of baseball (consensus top 10). In 2011, Miller was dominant at Palm Beach and near-dominant at Double-A Springfield. He was totally dominant away from hitter-friendly Hammons Field (Springfield's home park), where his WHIP was a miniscule 1.00 and he didn't give up a home run all year.

If Miller has a weakness, it is his low groundball rate. The lack of ability to get key double play balls may hurt him in the future if he doesn't improve in this area. He also needs to improve his control against left-handed hitters. LH hitters actually performed worse against him than RH hitters, but they drew walks at a much higher rate. I expect both of these areas will improve with more experience.

I would guess that Miller could pitch in the starting rotation of several major league clubs already. However, he will most likely be better in the long run with another year of minor league seasoning. He should start at Triple-A Memphis (though opening the year at Springfield with a quick promotion is not out of the question). If Miller has another strong year, he could see St. Louis in 2012, though it will depend also on how those ahead of him in the system pitch and stay healthy.

Message board community (1): Miller led the community's prospect list for a second consecutive year, and he did so handily even with the other excellent prospects in the system.

He pitched last year at age 21 and made short work of the Florida State League, fanning 81 in just 53 innings. He then moved on to the Texas League where he also posted solid numbers, fanning 89 in 86.2 innings. Miller succeeded against both lefties (OPS of .581) and righties (.628).

His numbers are likely inflated a bit by pitching at Hammons Field. In eight road starts, Miller was 7-1 with an ERA of 1.80, and only 13 walks (to 48 strikeouts) in 50 innings. In eight home starts, he was 2-2 with a 3.93 ERA, and 20 walks (to 41 strikeouts) in 36.2 innings. He gave up his only two home runs at home. Miller also had a higher ground ball rate at home (1.48) than on the road (1.00). Perhaps he was pitching differently in the small park.

I don't have much else to say about Miller other than that he sure seems like one of the best minor league pitching prospects in the game, and he's getting awfully close to St. Louis. I could easily see him making his major league debut as a spot starter late in 2012, as he moves towards joining the rotation in 2013. - Gagliano

Brian Walton (1): Many observers see the name of Miller, the system's Pitcher of the Year for two consecutive years, penciled into the Cardinals 2013 rotation as a replacement for either Kyle Lohse or Jake Westbrook. Here is how it might happen even sooner.

The identity of the team's current unofficial sixth starter is unclear. Lance Lynn would perhaps be the most likely candidate, but it appears that he will go to camp with a good shot at holding down a relief spot in St. Louis.

My current projected Memphis rotation is uninspiring – Brandon Dickson, Nick Additon, Brian Broderick, Michael Blazek and Maikel Cleto. Then, there is Miller.

I can envision a scenario in which Miller pitches well in the first half for Memphis and if/when a second-half opening appears in St. Louis' rotation, the 22-year-old receives the call. Would it be aggressive? Yes. Would I recommend it? Maybe not, but I could see it happening.

In recent years, the Cardinals have typically let young starters acclimate to the majors in a relief role before subjecting them to the pressures of starting. Then again, Miller isn't a typical pitcher.

Not that there was any doubt about Miller's objective in spring training and during the 2012 season, but he outlined it on Sirius/XM radio this week.

"Hopefully I will go in there and have a great spring," Miller said. "Hopefully, I will make it a tough decision for them. If they want me to start me there (St. Louis) or Memphis or wherever, I am going to go in there and perform at my best. If I do win a spot (with St. Louis), great. If I don't, I am going to keep my head on my shoulders and try to get there as fast as I can this year anyway."

Our 2012 top 40 countdown continues: This article series continues as the voters highlight the players on our personal lists that did not make the 2012 consolidated top 40. We move next to our All-Prospect Team, the highest-ranked players at each position, dive into the numbers behind the top 40, take a look at our best and worst selections from 2011 and the top prospects by level of play.

To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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