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Shelby Miller: Top Pitching Prospect in Baseball?

I wrote this piece on Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco over at Minor League Ball on Saturday, and wanted to make sure you had the chance to read it.

Today, I cover Cardinals pitching prospect Shelby Miller. Miller is a name you should know about as he should arrive in St. Louis as soon as early 2012. Miller started the 2011 season at High A Palm Beach where he was downright dominant. In 9 starts, he was 2-3 with a 2.89 ERAa and 1.132 WHIP, which are solid. But, in his 53 innings in A+, he struck out 81 and walked 20.

He was promoted to AA Springfield a few weeks ago, and he hasn't missed a beat. In 3 AA starts, he is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 22 strikeouts and 6 walks in 20 innings pitched. HIs K rate has dropped from almost 14K/9 to around 10K/9, but the drop in Ks has not hurt him to this point.

More on Miller and some thoughts from BP's Jason Parks after the jump:

Jason Parks from Baseball Prospectus is writing a series called Positional Primacy where he ranks the top prospects at each position, and Miller is his top right handed starting pitching prospect. Here is what he had to say about him in his June 7th article:

Leader of the Pack (Present): Shelby Miller

The case for:

From a scouting perspective, Miller has everything I look for in a future top-of-the-rotation arm. With prototypical size (6-foot-3 195 pounds) and room for additional strength, Miller has the body and the delivery to log innings and maintain his stuff deep into games. His fastball is a legit plus pitch, and can show plus-plus velocity, as he touches the upper 90s at times. The curveball is another above-average offering, flashing plus more than it flashes the potential to be plus, with excellent depth to the break and a tight spin. As with most young power pitchers, Miller’s changeup was underdeveloped in relation to his other offerings when he was drafted, but it has quickly emerged as another plus-potential pitch. It plays well off his fastball with good weight and some arm-side fading action.

With his frame, his tenacity, his smooth delivery, his being a Texan, his power arsenal that could/should leave him with three plus pitches when he reaches maturity, and the overall command that seems to gain refinement by the outing, Miller is the present leader of the pack of right-handed pitchers, and one could make a very convincing case that he is the top prospect in the game itself. After all, legit aces are baseball’s most precious commodities, and Miller has all the characteristics necessary to fulfill this projection.

The case against: I can’t think of one.

Miller is quite impressive, and he just may be the top pitching prospect in baseball, but I wouldn't say he is the top prospect in the game. Bryce Harper and Mike Trout haven't done anything to hurt their cases to sit atop most prospect rankings this season.

ESPN's Keith Law updated his Top 25 prospects back on May 31st and he had this to say about Miller, who he ranked as the top pitching prospect in his Top 25:

4. Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis: Tore up the Florida State League (81 K's in 53 innings at age 20) and earned a promotion this past weekend to Springfield … which I'm sure will rename itself Shelbyville shortly. Previous position: No. 9

Now the Cardinals aren't going to rush Miller, as he was drafted just over 2 years ago, but I would not be surprised to see the Cardinals call him up in September for a few relief innings or a spot start.

Looking to 2012, Miller could start the season in AAA and be a June callup at best, and assuming good health. But he is a name you should track going into 2012 drafts.