Shelby Miller—top prospect of the St. Louis Cardinals—has not fully adapted to Triple-A ball the way the team had hoped. Trade rumors have been swirling around what the Cardinals might be able to acquire for the 21-year-old righty.
While dealing the under-performing Miller in the heat of a division race sounds enticing to many, I assure you it is the wrong move. Just look at these stats:
A record of 14-14 with a 4.65 ERA in 245.2 innings pitched, while allowing 272 hits and 30 home runs in 41 career Triple-A starts.
You're probably confused.
What team in their right mind would insist on keeping a guy with such mediocre numbers?
That team was the Cardinals, and that guy is Adam Wainwright, not Shelby Miller.
That's right! The same Adam Wainwright who threw the final out of the 2006 World Series just one year removed from Triple-A ball. The same guy who finished in the top three for the Cy Young award—twice—put up those lackluster stats over two seasons with the Cardinal's Triple-A affiliate Memphis Redbirds.
The critics are saying, "But Miller and Wainwright are two different pitchers." I get that.
Like Wainwright, Miller was a straight-out-of-high-school first-round pick. Both pitchers had one MLB caliber pitch while still in high school—Wainwright's curveball and Miller's fastball.
Like nearly every prospect, Miller's main focus in the minors is to gain command of his offspeed pitches. There is still work to do, evident in his 46 walks in 88.1 innings this season in Memphis.
What cannot be lost in this is the dominance of Miller's fastball.
The righty's heater ranges is the mid-90's while topping off around 96 MPH. This is Miller's go-to pitch. Its late sinking action is the main contributor to his 9.9 strike outs per nine innings this season.
A strikeout rate that high draws attention to anyone, especially a 21-year-old in his first Triple-A season.
At the start of the season Miller was ranked the number eight prospect on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list. Number eight. Not just in the Cardinals' farm system, but all of Minor League Baseball.
Miller has been a regular to the list, cracking the top 50 in each of his three professional seasons.
He has showed why over his last two starts—11 innings of scoreless ball, allowing only five hits in the process.
A small sample size, yes. But keep in mind, Miller was not even pitching in Double-A ball until midway through last season
The potential is clearly there.
While his prospect outlook (and subsequent trade value) has taken a hit, the Cardinals should not fret and sell low. Midseason call-ups of Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal certainly makes Miller look more expendable.
What the Cardinals really gained from the call-ups—especially Kelly—is time.
Kelly’s addition has been a nice surprise to this year's rotation. Similar production through the season could land him a spot as the favorite to win the fifth spot in the 2013 rotation that projects—pending health issues—to include Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, and Lance Lynn.
That's not to say Miller can't win the job out of Spring Training, but that another year in Memphis can only help.
With a little more fine tuning Miller will prove to everyone why he was the 19th overall pick of 2009's MLB First-Year Player Draft. If The Cardinal's are smart, it will be in their uniform.