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September 10, 2010

Future Shock

Scouting Report: Shelby Miller

by Kevin Goldstein

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On Wednesday night, I caught my first playoff game of the year, as Quad Cities beat Kane County 4-2 in a Midwest League opener. Sometimes in this business, there are guys you end up catching a lot, and for me, this year it was Shelby Miller, who I saw pitch for the fourth time this season. With 12 pages of notes on the Cardinals top prospect, it was time to bust out a traditional scouting report on the prized right-hander.


 
Player Shelby Miller POS RHP
Organization St. Louis Cardinals DOB 10/10/90
Level Low-A Quad Cities Height 6-3
Games Seen 4.0 Weight 215
Innings Pitched 19.1 Bats/Throws R/R

 

Pitching Present Future Radar High Radar Low
Fastball 70 70 97 93
Curveball 40 60 81 78
Slider        
Changeup 35 50 85 81
Other        
Control 45 60    
Presence 60 70    

Background: 19th overall pick in 2009 out of Texas HS. He fell in the draft due to signability, but ended up signing for $2.875 million, the seventh-highest bonus in the first round.

Physical Description: Premium power-pitcher's frame with height, broad shoulders and thick middle. Body very mature for age; bit like a young Matt Cain.

Strengths: Sits in the mid 90s with mechanics that are the definition of free and easy. Classic, almost textbook 3/4 delivery with nothing exaggerated in leg kick, landing, or follow through. Hands remain exceptionally quiet during windup with a quick load of right hand into position and lightning release. Landing is soft, in-line, and well balanced. Almost looks like he's playing catch. Effortless. Only went deep into game once, but was still sitting at 94 mph in the seventh after throwing 90+ pitches with no signs of fatigue. Works all four quadrants of the zone with fastball, already knows how to vary speeds, and has some boring action in on right-handed hitters. Curveball is classic 11-to-5 with a bit of horizontal movement to it. A bit loopy but effective when he gets enough snap on it. Saw several plus ones that froze hitters (three called Ks on Wednesday), and showed willingness to use it both late and early in the count. Threw very few changeups, but has some arm deception on the pitch and seems to at least have an idea of what the pitch should do, showing occasional depth and good velocity separation. Outstanding mound presence. Just a bullet-throwing robot out there that works at the same pace throughout the game while showing no emotion or reactions to questionable calls, poor defense, or his own mistakes.

Weaknesses: Most recent outing was his best as a professional with seven innings of pure nastiness, but other nights he was very inconsistent and varied between dominant and hittable from inning to inning. Curveball lacks crispness at times; would like to see him turn it into more of a true power pitch, as the higher velocity versions were far more effective. Curve always starts in batters eyes and finishes in strike zone; rarely saw it used as a chase pitch. Command abandoned him during middle innings in three previous starts, and when he starts missing, he misses up, although there are no clear mechincal indicators to predict upcoming wildness. Changeup is no more than a work in progress, but some feel. Clearly tips pitches right now. Always starts fastball in the glove, spins hand to alter grip whenever deuce is coming.

Summary: Between body, delivery, and stuff, Miller has easy frontline starter potential, as 9/8 playoff start was best performance by a pitcher I've seen all year. Previous looks do create concerns, although potential for improvement is significant. Don't see much projection in fastball, but doesn't need it, and shows enough high-quality curveballs to project for a 70/60/50 repertoire only seen in star-level arms. Improved control/command throughout season and could be poised for '11 breakout.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

40 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Simon C.

Very cool to see a full-length scouting report. When you call it an 11-to-5 curve, do you mean from the perspective of the hitter? I've always assumed that the "clock-hand description" of curveballs were from the vantage point of the pitcher (since that's the view we get on TV), but there's a good chance I could be mistaken after reading this.

Sep 10, 2010 00:26 AM
rating: 0
 
NYYanks826

You would assume so, because from what I've seen, the curves thrown by righties that are referred to as "11-to-5" are actually moving in a 1-to-7 fashion from the perspective we see on TV, if I'm not mistaken.

Sep 10, 2010 01:30 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

11-to-5 is a general term, don't get all scientific here, because scouts don't. It's just used to differentiate from the 12-to-6 and let you know there's a diagonal element to the pitch, that's all.

Sep 10, 2010 10:54 AM
 
Sharky

Thanks, Kevin. Could you compare to Tyler Matzek for us (at least at a high level)? I tend to think of the two together, and would be very interested to hear a comparison.

Sep 10, 2010 03:29 AM
rating: -2
 
jpjazzman

Thought this was great, would love to see more pieces like this.

Sep 10, 2010 04:39 AM
rating: 13
 
dianagram

Love this format ... more please.

Sep 10, 2010 05:06 AM
rating: 12
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Glad the feedback was so positive. Thanks to everyone.

Sep 10, 2010 10:54 AM
 
jlefty

loved the format Kevin. I know you're not crazy about comps, but reading this (and never having seen him pitch), A.J. Burnett came to my mind. Body, repertoire, inconsistency, control. Even if that's a bad comp, just curious about Miller's ceiling.. if he puts up numbers similar to AJ are scouts happy or disappointed?

Sep 10, 2010 06:34 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

This is why I don't like comps. Maybe that's a good one, maybe that's not. I like my physical comparison but comping Miller as a player is difficult, and really, will just led to more misinformation than anything else. What Miller is, is quite common. Big righty, FB/CU/CH (in that order). There are a ton of guys like that, Miller's just really good at it.

Sep 10, 2010 10:56 AM
 
Bob

Nice, thanks Kevin. How about a profile like this next year for the top 10 or 20 prospects? Put it in a book and I'll buy it.

Sep 10, 2010 07:00 AM
rating: 5
 
Dan

This is great, the more prospect content the better. Speaking of, bring prospectin' back to the podcast!

Sep 10, 2010 08:11 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

We get people who want more prospectin' in the podcast, and then we get people who want more, for lack of a better term, big leaguein' -- we go back and forth.

Sep 10, 2010 10:57 AM
 
Scott44

Excellent report. I know you don't like comparisons, but body-wise aside, does his pure stuff remind you of anyone you've seen?

Sep 10, 2010 08:20 AM
rating: 0
 
keeperleaguegm

Kev:

This is a great...hope you do many more of these.

Mike

Sep 10, 2010 08:29 AM
rating: 2
 
hyprvypr

Not that you didn't know already, but the readers LOVE stuff like this, me amongst them. A scouting report a week would be an awesome long-term goal. While I realize this takes a lot of time, research and 'eyes on approach', it's all *I* want for Christmas - and would give me more incentive to stay with BP for the long-term.

Sep 10, 2010 08:55 AM
rating: 1
 
Cardinals645

After seeing the line from Miller's performance Wednesday night and reading your tweets, I was expecting Shelby to have a highlighted spot in your Minor League Update yesterday. I was disappointed until I read you were doing a full scouting report; you did not let us down!

I can't wait until the Top 100 and Top 11s! Very interested to hear more about Miller's timetable.

Sep 10, 2010 09:26 AM
rating: 2
 
dREaDS Fan

If KG at BP can figure out a 5-star prospect is tipping pitches, why can't the Cardinals' minor league pitching instructors & coaches?

Separate question: Believe you may have explained this in the past, but knowing in general what a 40/50/60/70/80 curveball, changeup, etc is would be helpful in reading writeups like this.

Sep 10, 2010 10:08 AM
rating: 2
 
SydFinch

It is a 20-80 logrithmic scale.

So 50 is avg.
60 is 1 std deviation above avg
70 is 2 std deviations above avg (~ 95 percentile)
80 is 3 std's above (99+ percentile).

reciprocal for 40, 30, 20

Sep 10, 2010 10:32 AM
rating: 3
 
dianagram

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=4860

Sep 10, 2010 10:32 AM
rating: 0
 
smocon

I would think that with a 50 Change, albeit with plus command, that he profiles more as a #3 with upside of a #2, than an Ace? Much like a Matt Cain.

Sep 10, 2010 10:11 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

One plus-plus pitch, one plus pitch, one average and plus command is more 2 than 3. It's a star. And keep in mind that generally the 1-5 system, in the why that scouts use it, is NOT relative to talent. There's not even close to 30 No. 1s in the big leagues . . . not even sure there are ten.

Sep 10, 2010 10:58 AM
 
smocon

Completely agree on all points...

Just like my pegs to fit into the appropriate holes.

Sep 10, 2010 11:59 AM
rating: 0
 
delugeofgrandeur

Just another vote for this was a really cool article and would love to see more of it.

Sep 10, 2010 11:25 AM
rating: 2
 
Scott44

KG - looks like the fandom has spoken and we'll need you going to more minor league games. Hopefully the food and beer are on the house!

Sep 10, 2010 11:38 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I'm like a cop, never drink while I'm working.

Sep 10, 2010 11:47 AM
 
dianagram

Yeah, trying to get a reading on the JUGS whilst imbibing, that would be a really warped instance of DWI.

"Mr. Goldstein, do you know how fast you were scouting?"

Sep 10, 2010 12:14 PM
rating: 0
 
PhilliesRed

But you eat donuts?

Sep 10, 2010 12:16 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I wish they had donuts at the ballpark, alas. . .

Sep 10, 2010 12:54 PM
 
lemppi

The Metrodome had mini-donuts.....don't know about Target Field.

Sep 10, 2010 14:36 PM
rating: 0
 
PhilliesRed

By the way, I'm happy to add my two cents to a mounting total: this was a great read.

Sep 10, 2010 12:17 PM
rating: 2
 
BillJohnson

Me too, but one comment, Kevin: Do you realize how many of your readers you're affecting with the implication that a "thick middle" is a VIRTUE? ;-) Seriously, I'd like to understand better exactly what a "thick middle" means, in the context of a pitcher.

Sep 10, 2010 13:49 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Big trunk, big thighs -- guys generate a ton of velo from that area.

Sep 10, 2010 18:13 PM
 
Wade

like Roger Clemens perhaps?

Sep 12, 2010 16:48 PM
rating: 0
 
Benjamin Harris

Kevin, how much of this report is your opinion alone and how much is from scouts? I know (from the podcast - loyal listener) that you often sit with scouts at games, did they inform this as well. Is it kind of an aggregate of scouts opinions and your opinions?

Sep 10, 2010 14:19 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Great question. On three of the four games I saw Miller, I sat with a scout, and certainly, we talked about what we say. On Wednesday, there were no scouts at the game. Also those opinions are mine, but obviously, my conversations with scouts helped shape the opinions.

Sep 10, 2010 18:19 PM
 
mwashuc06

I wonder if he could learn how to throw the cutter like Carpenter does, then I think he could be a #1.

Sep 10, 2010 15:12 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kiley McDaniel
BP staff

Needs more animated GIFs.

Sep 10, 2010 23:24 PM
 
pobothecat

ooooh

Sep 15, 2010 16:16 PM
rating: 0
 
LynchMob

Love it ... thanks! More!

Any chance he starts next year at AA?

ETA @ MLB?

Sep 11, 2010 18:38 PM
rating: 0
 
mental4sox

Another person that wants to see more of these. Thanks Kevin, love your prospect work here. I hope you keep these scouting reports coming (and yes, animated GIFs would be a wicked neat add-on).

Sep 12, 2010 07:20 AM
rating: 0
 
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Premium Article Prospectus Perspective... (09/10)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Future Shock: Org Watc... (09/08)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Future Shock: Monday T... (09/13)
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The Week in Quotes: Se... (09/13)

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