BLUF: Big time fastball-curveball combo that could land him as a number one starter with some elite seasons.
The Player: Shelby Miller (RHP, St. Louis Cardinals) – The Cards top pick in the 2009 draft, Miller signed late and made just two starts with Low-A Quad Cities that season and then returned to the level for the 2010 season. As a 19-year old in full-season ball Miller posted an impressive 3.62 ERA in 24 starts. He allowed less than a hit per inning and struck out nearly 13 batters per nine innings in his full-season debut. In 2011 the Cardinals were cautious with Miller despite a great spring training, starting him in the High-A Florida State League for nine starts. After a 2.89 ERA over that span he was promoted to Double-A where he continued his success. In 16 more starts on the year Miller posted a 2.70 ERA with 7.5 hits allowed per nine innings and over a strikeout per inning.
Body: Very athletic, highly projectable frame (6-3, 200). Has good strength with room to add more as he matures. Well-proportioned with good balanced.
Makeup: Fiery player that is an intense competitor. Good on-field makeup. Suspended at the end of 2011 for an incident dealing with alcohol. Cardinals insist it isn’t a long term concern and believe it will be a good learning experience.
Delivery/Mechanics: Moves quickly through his windup to the balance point. Has drop and drive as he works down the plane of the mound. Quick, abrupt extension of the landing leg that gives some funk to his delivery. Lands with good balance and drives through his front leg. Typically shows good extension out front but will get caught cutting his follow-through short at times. Arm action is clean with tons of arm speed. Athleticism allows him to repeat delivery consistently.
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Wind-up): High – 98, Low – 91, Average – 93-94, Grade – 70/70
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Stretch): High – 97, Low 91, Average 92-94, Grade – 70/70
Fastball (FB) Movement: Has natural run down in the zone. Also shows some boring action when he elevates, making him very tough to square up. Four-seamer is explosive and can miss bats even when he misses his spot. Grade – 60/60
Overall Fastball: Good velocity and natural movement, even on four-seamer. Has extreme confidence in FB and the pitch plays up because of his aggression and willingness to get inside with it. Grade – 70/70
Curveball (CB):Plus-plus pitch most of the time with hard bite as it approaches the zone. Break is late and sharp and can miss bats with ease. Improved ability to throw the pitch for strikes, adding to his ability to throw it out of the zone as a chase pitch. Just needs consistency to be a second 70-grade pitch. Grade – 60/70
Change-up (CH): Good arm speed. Trusts his grip. More of a straight CH though there will be some sink at times. Can get too firm with it and leave it up in the zone. Grade – 40/50
Control: Pounds the strike zone with all three pitches and rarely has trouble finding the zone. Clean mechanics, demonstrated progress and athleticism all give him projection for outstanding control. Grade – 50/70
Command: Doesn’t work down in the zone as much as scouts would like. Will inadvertently pitch up in the zone and could pay for that early in big league career. Has added ability to locate FB to both sides of the plate. As mentioned, CB can be thrown for strikes to both sides and used as a chase pitch. Control projection lends to command projection and plus command down the line. Grade – 40/60
Summation: Nearly big league ready. Two plus-plus pitches with desire to put hitters away. Attacks early and challenges hitters with his best stuff. True power pitcher with the mentality to match. Has good understanding of fielding position and holding runners. Moves well off the mound. If command or change-up develops more than expected, still has shot to make himself a number one starter, but should easily be a very good number two that can dominate for extended stretches.
Relative Risk: Moderate. Command projection and very little injury concern help his case. Moderate risk simply because of the inherent risk of pitching prospects.
Future: The Cardinals have indicated that he will likely head to Triple-A to start the 2012 season and he could make his MLB debut this year if the club needs help or if injuries strike. Should be a mainstay in the rotation in 2013 and can front the rotation with Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia for years to come.