Prospect Report: Will Shelby Miller Claim A Rotation Spot In St. Louis?

It was an interesting 2012 campaign for Miller, who posted a 6.17 ERA in 17 starts in the first half of the season at Triple-A. However, in the second half he rediscovered his form and showed why he is considering one of the best prospects in baseball. All he did in his 10 second half starts was post a 2.88 ERA, including 70 K vs. 7 BB in 59.1 innings of work.

The turnaround enabled him to make four big league appearances at the end of the year, including one start, where he kept the good times rolling (16 K vs. 4 BB over 13.2 innings). Now, there are two questions that need to be asked. First, wht happened early in the year? Second, when (not if) he gets a full-time spot in the Cardinals rotation.

We posted this quote during last season, but it does a great job of answering our first question. In regards to the stunning turn around, Derrick Gould of the St. Louis Post Dispatch is reporting (click here for the post):

“This surge corresponds with the midseason break the Cardinals gave Miller to reset. He had struggled to a 4-8 record and a 6.17 ERA in his first 17 starts at Triple-A Memphis. The Cardinals pulled him briefly from the rotation so that he could recapture his mechanics — they had started to erode a bit from previous seasons. And they instituted a no-shake rule. Miller had become too dependent on his fastball, and that allowed opposing hitters to wait for it and hammer it. The no-shake rule meant that Miller could not shake-off the catcher, no matter what the catcher called.”

Obviously, we can see in the numbers that it worked (or was a very big coincidence). Regardless, the switch turned on mid-year and Miller was able to return to potential fantasy ace and top prospect status.

When looking at Miller’s performance prior to the first half of 2012, it becomes obvious that the struggles were an aberration. Outside of his two start taste in 2009, his worst K/9 at any level entering the year was the 9.24 he posted in 16 Double-A starts in 2011. The same thing can be said for his control, which was at 3.43 during that stint.

Granted you can argue that his control isn’t as good as he showed in the second half, but his electric strikeout stuff easily overcomes that. Throw in an ability to keep the ball in the ballpark over his minor league career and there is little not to like about Miller going forward. He has generally received glowing reviews, and the turnaround in the second half showed just how justified they were.

The question of when he gets his opportunity is slightly different, however. That answer lies in the hands of mostly Lance Lynn, though an injury to another starter would change that. Let us not forget that Lynn actually pitched himself out of the rotation in 2012. Throw in potential injury concerns for Chris Carpenter, as well as Jake Westbrook now being 35-years old and Jaime Garcia being limited to 20 starts a year ago, and there are ample reasons to think Miller will play a major role in 2013.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make 20 starts, at a minimum, this season. With his talent, that makes hm a player worth owning in all keeper formats (as well as deeper redraft leagues).

What are your thoughts of Miller? What type of impact do you see him playing in 2013? Is he a player you will target?

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