Every Monday through the rest of the minor league season, I'll be taking a look at a prospect who is either at AA or AAA, and could potentially have an impact on your fantasy season this year. Today's prospect came into the season as one of the top pitching prospects in the Majors, ranking at #7 overall by our own Bret Sayre at the start of the season, but poor performance and reports of poor conditioning have left a number of people wondering what exactly Shelby Miller is at this point in his career.
Weight: 195 lbs.
On 40-man Roster: No
Miller was drafted out of a Texas high school with the #19 overall pick of the 2009 draft, and bypassed a commitment to Texas A&M to sign instead with the Cardinals. He received a bonus of nearly $3 million, and appeared in 2 games that season with the Cardinals' Low-A affiliate in Quad Cities. Miller was sent back to Quad Cities for his first full professional season in 2010, posting an excellent 140 strikeouts against 33 walks in 104 innings pitched.
The Cardinals moved him up to High-A Palm Beach to start the 2011 season, where he was so dominant in 53 innings pitched (81 K/20 BB, 40 hits allowed), that he was promoted to AA as a 20 year old. He made 16 starts there to end the season, posting an excellent 2.70 ERA along with 89 strikeouts and 33 walks in 86 2/3 innings pitched.
Miller was sent to AAA Memphis for the 2012 season, and has been extremely inconsistent for most of the season. As late as July 7th, Miller had an ERA over 6.00 and was generally just getting hit very hard even for the Pacific Coast League. However, in the past month, Miller has been much better, including posting 8+ strikeouts and 0 walks in total in his last 3 starts.
What's Stopping Him From Contributing Now?
Realistically, the biggest thing that stands out to me is that Miller is not on the 40 man roster. That seems likely to keep him from seeing a callup during this season. Add into that fact that there is not really an opening in the rotation currently, and the Cardinals don't have a ton of incentive to push him up to the Majors.
I'd also like to see his performance continue through the rest of the minor league season (about a month to go now), as he was extremely inconsistent earlier in the year.
What Could He Do For Fantasy Owners When He Gets to the Majors?
Miller still appears to have the potential to be a top flight starting pitcher, but I wonder if it will look more like a #2 than a #1 at this point. His control has been touchy at times this year, and while the strikeout potential is still very high, I am more concerned about the walk potential he showed earlier in the season. Right now I would predict some excellent starts, along with some rough outings if his control falters.
When Could He Arrive?
I really want to see him continue this string of solid performance he has had in his last 3 starts through his remaining starts this year. If he doesn't, I think he could end up starting the season back in AAA again in 2013. Either way he seems likely to be in competition for a rotation spot to start the 2013 season, as the team has a couple of potential rotation spots available with the impending free agencies of Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook.
Miller is a prospect whose luster has faded a bit this season, but it's hard to remember sometimes that he won't turn 22 until October, and has already shown success at AAA. He could be a potentially high-risk, high-reward type for fantasy owners next season in non-keeper leagues, and is a definite must-target for any keeper or dynasty leagues. If you have an owner who is a bit wary of him, it could be a very good buy low opportunity as well.