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.
|Organization||St. Louis Cardinals||DOB||10/10/90|
|Level||Low-A Quad Cities||Height||6-3|
|Pitching||Present||Future||Radar High||Radar Low|
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.