St. Louis Cardinals Choose High Upside Arms

The St. Louis Cardinals chose three high upside pitchers on Day One of the 2009 MLB First Year Player draft including Texas prep pitcher Shelby Miller with the 19th overall selection.

It has been no secret that the St. Louis Cardinals' farm system was lacking in high upside talent, especially high risk/high reward starting pitchers. The Cardinals made it clear that the organization will do what it takes to remedy that with its first three selections in the 2009 MLB First Year Player draft.

The team chose three right-handers with tremendous upside that have the ability to dial it up to the mid-nineties. The first of those pitchers, Shelby Miller, gives the system a true front-of-the-rotation prospect the system has lacked since Dan Haren was traded to the Oakland A's.

The Cardinals selected Miller, Texas prep, with the 19th overall pick. It was the first time the organization has selected a high school pitcher with its first round pick since the team nabbed Brian Barber in 1991.

Miller attended Brownwood High School where he amassed a record of 9-1 with a 1.69 ERA this past spring. He struck out 129 batters in 66 innings while allowing only 30 walks and 34 hits.

The 6'3 right-hander possesses a fastball that has reached 96 MPH. Along with that, he brings a plus curveball that should only get better as he begins to command it more consistently. His change up is already a solid pitch, rare for a power right-hander that rarely has to rely on a third offering.

The Texan gets high marks on his control and make up as well. Projected as a front of the rotation starter, scouts love the life on his fastball and his smooth repeatable delivery. He uses his frame effectively to throw his pitches on a downhill plane.

Baseball America rated him as the number 11 prospect in this year's draft. Most observers though he would be the top choice of the Texas Rangers who instead selected Texas prep left-hander Matt Purke.

During his junior season, Miller gained notice for throwing three consecutive no hitters.

Miller has committed to Texas Christian University and is rumored to have a bonus demand in the $4 million range.

Though he has yet to sign a professional contract, I rank Miller as the number 1 pitching prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

Next, the team selected the University of Southern California's Robert Stock with its second round choice. Though it was announced he was drafted as a catcher, his future might be on the mound. Stock seems to ooze upside being he is a 19-year-old draft-eligible junior.

Stock has been well known to prospect watchers for years. As a 15-year-old, he was named Baseball America's Youth Player of the Year. He decided to forego his senior season and enroll in the University of Southern California. Stock would serve as the team's starting catcher and closer during his first two seasons for the Trojans. As a freshman, he started 38 games while making 14 appearances on the mound. At the plate, batted .253 on the four home runs and 22 RBI's. On the mound, he was 2-2 with a 4.55 ERA and two saves.

That summer, he played in the Cape Cod Baseball League where he hit .228 with five four home runs and 20 RBI's. As a pitcher, he made nine appearances and posted a 7.88 ERA but did record three saves.

As a sophomore, Stock improved at the plate, hitting .299 with four home runs, 22 RBI's. He was much better on the mound with a 3.60 ERA and three saves. He also improved his performance on the Cape, hitting .270 with a home run and 11 RBIs.

Stock's junior season was definitely a roller coaster ride. He really struggled at the plate hitting only .226 but he did set career highs in home runs, six, and RBI's, 30. So Trojans' head coach Chad Krueter moved him to the rotation and Stock excelled. In his first start, he pitched five innings and struck out 10 against the University of Arizona. In 77.2 innings, he logged 86 strikeouts while walking 39.

The Cardinals announced the selection as a catcher not a pitcher. It is rumored that Stock wants to stay behind the plate. With great athletiscm from the left side, Stock could develop more power as he matures. Scouts have always been impressed with his catch and throw skills. On the mound, Stock brings an above average fastball that can touch 95. His changeup is already considered a plus pitch while his curveball grades out as average. With an easy, repeatable delivery, his command should continue to improve.

Like the Cardinals' first round selection, Stock could prove to be a tough sign.

The Cardinals continued there trend of drafting high upside arms, tabbing University of California-Riverside's Joe Kelly in the third round. The 6'1 right-hander works his fastball in the mid-nineties and has hit 99 on the radar gun. Also, the pitch has tailing action that bores into right-handed hitters.

Unlike most college relievers, or pro relievers for that matter, Kelly possesses two at least average secondary offerings. His slider sits 81-85 and he can throw it for strikes. His changeup has a late drop and is reminiscent of a splitter.

Though he has overpowering stuff, Kelly proved to be very hittable this season with an ERA over five. With a big arm arc in his delivery, the Californian allows hitters to get an early look at his offerings. He is a max effort delivery pitcher who seems to be relegated to the bullpen. With some refinement of his mechanics, he could be worth a look as a starter with his having three average or better offerings.

The 21-year-old (his birthday was June 9) was plagued by a shoulder injury early in his career and has only pitched 73 innings in college. His freshman season was by far his best season. In 27.1 innings, he recorded 19 strikeouts while posting a 1.32 ERA. Though he did rack up six saves as a sophomore, injuries limited him to only 17 innings and he finished with a 9.35 ERA.

After his freshman season, Kelly played for Team USA. His teammates included current Cardinal farmhands Brett Wallace and Lance Lynn.

His father, Joseph Kelly, Sr., played football for the San Diego Chargers.

Overall, Cardinal fans have to be happy with the team's first day performance. It identified players with high upside and drafted them regardless of signability concerns. With Miller, the team has the best pitching prospect it has possessed since the days of Dan Haren and before that, Rick Ankiel.


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