St. Louis Cardinals Need to Prove a Point with Shelby Miller

Joel KochSenior Analyst IJune 12, 2009

The St. Louis Cardinals surprised many fans by drafting hard-throwing right-hander Shelby Miller out of Brownwood High School in Texas with their 19th pick.

Surprised, but not disappointed.

Miller's selection shows that the Cardinals are willing to go over slot for a future front of the rotation and that they are willing to draft high school arms in the first round. That is something they haven't done since 1991.

The Cardinals need to show their fanbase that they are willing to spend money. And to do that, they have to sign Miller—and soon.

If I were Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, I would send a proposal to Miller's representative with "$3.5 million" written on the paper. Under that number, I would have "$1 million" written out, followed by "two years."

Why? Miller is a special kind of talent, and this is what it would take. The Cardinals need to give him $3.5 million up front, with $1 million paid to Miller over the next two years ($500,000 paid out over 12 months).

Not only will this show that the Cardinals are willing to spend on premier talent, but also that they are committed to developing Miller into that future front-end arm as soon as possible.

The tricky part is what happens after Miller signs. He just graduated high school and is only 18. He threw 70-plus innings for Brownwood this season, and with his future being very bright, the Cardinals have to monitor his innings.

How? They need to convert him to a reliever just for this season. Allow him to pitch out of the bullpen, put up 30 to 40 innings and see how he fares.

As a reliever, he could easily climb the organizational ladder and pitch at Double-A Springfield or Triple-A Memphis. He could even make a September cameo appearance and pitch a few innings in blowout games.

The key to making him a reliever would be to see where he begins 2010. If he stays at Low-A Quad Cities (which is where he should be started), let him begin there next season as a starter.

If he makes it to Springfield, start him at Springfield. If he gets to Memphis or St. Louis, start him in Memphis. Very simple, very easy.

Miller represents the breaking point. If he does not sign, the Cardinals give off the indication that they are cheap and only go with low-budget players and low-budget draft picks. They have no desire to bring in game-changing players to the organization and are okay with being mediocre.

If they do sign him, they show that they are willing to spend money on amateur talent and professional talent. They also show that they know who the future starters are and want to bring them in and develop them.

Shelby Miller is the key, and the Cardinals future rides on him. A signed Miller means a happy fan base and continued to success. An unsigned Miller—unless he changes course and decides to attend college instead of going pro—means that fans may easily start bailing on the Cardinals.

Which will Mozeliak and Company choose? Only time will tell. Check back often between now and August 17th.