I won’t try to hold you in suspense till the offseason. Shelby Miller will be the #1 prospect here and in every major publication you read (BA, BP, Law, etc). There’s several contenders but they’re all flawed or just as unknown.
- Jaime Garcia – The upside isn’t quite what you want in a #1 and despite his sterling performance to date, there will be questions about his health for the next several years now.
- Daryl Jones – Injuries have plagued him all season leading to questions surrounding his overall talent level and power projection.
- Wagner Mateo – The one player who can match Shelby on upside is the one player we know even less about.
- Island of Misfit Toys – Daniel Descalso, Eduardo Sanchez, Lance Lynn, Bryan Anderson . . . they all suffer from either Garcia or Jones syndrome above. It’s still a nice collection of mid-level prospects but nothing here to challenge for the #1 spot.
So expect Miller to take over the #1 ranking. Regardless of what he’s ranked or what deragatory remarks that incites from the STL P-D scribes about laying a new egg, the real question is what the Cardinals have just signed in Shelby Miller.
At 94 mph, he tied for the highest velocity recorded at last summer’s Area Code Games, and he has touched 96 this spring. He usually pitches at 92-93 mph, but his fastball has more than just velocity. Miller spins a solid curve that will be a plus pitch when he commands it more consistently. He has made strides with his changeup as well. He has sound mechanics and arm action, and a blue-collar work ethic. He’s a good athlete who also starred in football.
The Good: He’s that classic big and strong Texas-based prep right-hander, with a fastball that consistently gets up to 97 mph, and he has a nasty mound demeanor to boot. His arm action is clean, and he gets tremendous leverage from his power frame.
The Bad: He’s more of a thrower than a pitcher right now, his curveball is inconsistent, and his changeup is rarely seen.
In A Perfect World He Becomes: A dominating power arm, but if the secondary stuff never catches up to the velocity, he could end up as a one-pitch guy.
Keith Law (scouting one of Miller’s games):
Miller’s first three fastballs came in at 94, 94 and 96 mph. He pitched at 92-94 most of the day with the occasional 95 and showed outstanding sink on the pitch. His curveball was inconsistent; he threw it at 76-78 mph, showing the ability to get good depth and a slight two-plane break on the pitch, but he bounced several and pitched mostly off his fastball instead. His fastball command was also poor; he got some generous calls from the home plate ump and the opposing hitters weren’t able to catch up with his stuff. His frame is just what you want in a pitcher — 6-foot-3 or 6-4, strong for his age, with some room left to fill out.
The Cardinals selected a live, raw arm the likes of which haven’t been seen in the system since Rick Ankiel. The upside is huge as is the downside. The Cardinals will have to refine his curveball, improve his command and teach him a changeup. The first shouldn’t be an issue. The second has been a problem for the organization and the third gives me pause for concern. The organization has reportedly just acquired a hugely talented kid with a good work ethic, the developmental responsibility is now both theirs and Shelby’s to see this through to the majors.
It’s a lot of stuff to work on for a kid who is 18 and just became a multi-millionare. Good work ethic or not there are a lot of pitfalls between draft pick #19 and major league starter and Shelby will have to run the gauntlet. He’s the new face of the farm system and probably will be for the next 3 years. If he’s not the top prospect entering 2012, something has either gone horribly wrong or wonderfully right.