St. Louis Cardinals Surprise Most With High School Pitcher

Justin HulseyCorrespondent IJune 10, 2009

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Going into today, fans expected Matthew Purke. Going into the pick, fans expected Rex Brothers. I don’t think anybody expected Shelby Miller.

It’s just another example of why the MLB Draft is the toughest to predict. Baseball’s Mel Kiper, Jonathan Mayo, had a hard time foreseeing this year’s Draft. And to my knowledge, nobody had us taking Miller.

Shelby Miller, all 6’4” 215 pounds of him, was rated as the best high school pitcher in the draft, and the ninth pitcher overall (per Baseball America). With Brownwood (Texas) HS this season, Miller is 9-1 with a 1.69 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 66 innings pitched.

It was an interesting pick due to the Cardinals needs and preferences. Going in, St. Louis kept saying they wanted to stock up on left handed pitching. With that in mind, it was no surprise that the club went with a righty in the first round tonight and passed on left handed pitchers that included Brothers, Andy Oliver, Tyler Skaggs, and James Paxton.

What was a surprise, however, was that Miller is in high school. Management has always gone in with a “college over high school” mentality. That had everyone thinking Lipscomb’s Rex Brothers as the Draft went on. So when the Cards took the young gun, many people were left scratching their heads.

He was the first pitcher since Brian Barber in 1991 to be taken in the first round by the Cardinals.

Don’t know him? Most don’t. Barber ended his career after four seasons in the bigs. He finished up 5-8 with a 6.77 ERA and 59 strikeouts….. in his career.

With the selection of Shelby, players like Rex Brothers, Kyle Gibson, Randal Grichuk, Tanner Scheppers, and Tim Wheeler had to look elsewhere.

Miller is a top 15-20 prospect on most people’s boards, and was 11thon mine. He threw three straight no hitters while he was a junior in high school last season and now has four no-no’s total (one perfecto).

His four pitches and solid mechanics really attract scouts as well. Miller rocks a 96-98 MPH fastball with movement, a tight spinning slider at 87, a 12-6 dropping curveball at about 73-77, and a rarely-used (but being worked on) changeup near 81 miles per hour.

His high arm slot has actually been compared to Joel Pineiro’s in some scouting reports. Jonathan Mayo tells that “Miller throws harder than Purke, and is more projectable than Matzek.”

One of the issues with Miller is the recurring problem with this Draft. Signability.

When Derrick Goold spoke with Jeff Lunhow after the pick, Lunhow explained, “It’s no slam dunk that we’re going to sign him quickly. If we even sign him at all.”

As soon as Cardinal fans got word of that, the conspiracy theories rapidly developed. Many wondered if the Front Office even intended on signing their selection in the first place.

I have to be honest, it would not surprise me. If DeWitt doesn’t want to pay to bring in help from outside of the organization, why should we expect him to give a high schooler the $4 million he wants?

The fan on Twitter that basically started this talk put it this way: “Is this a joke? Does the [Front Office] draft somebody they know they can’t sign just to get out of first round money?”

To answer his question though… I sure don’t hope so. But it would not surprise me. DeWitt’s cheap ass would be the one who pulled something like that and it makes me sick.

If, for some reason, we can’t grow a set and just give the kid some money, Miller would head off back to Texas to play for Texas A&M next season. He would be eligible in the draft again and 2011 and would likely be one of the top picks baring injury.

As far as getting drafted by the Cardinals is concerned, Miller seems happy with it. “The Cardinals are a team I’m real excited to be drafted by. College can come later. Ultimate goal is to play professional ball. Cardinals have a lot to offer. College, I just don’t see in my immediate future. I’m ready to play ‘ball.”

IF I was in the Front Office, I would do whatever possible to sign this guy. We can’t screw around and end up losing a first round draft pick for this year. From what I hear, Miller isn’t asking for an island in the Caribbean. As long as it isn’t anything outrageous, I would just give him his money, get him into the Minors, and move on with it.

Justin Hulsey
Cardinals Front Office