Young Arm Stock Watch 2014: Shelby Miller

Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller (Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports)

Shelby Miller finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, but was unused throughout the playoffs. His stock may have hit rock bottom at the end of the year, but should you be buying or selling on one of the top arms in the Cardinals’ system?

Although the Cardinals may have three more players that qualify for this feature, Shelby Miller is the final young arm that we will be evaluating. The final part of Miller’s season may have left fans, front-office types, and Miller with a sour taste regarding his performance, but the overall picture is much prettier.

Miller broke camp in the starting rotation after winning the job from the likes of Michael Wacha and Joe Kelly. His addition to the Cardinals’ rotation helped the team get off to a fast start. Through two months, the Cardinals paced baseball in starting pitching ERA, and were headed by Miller. His 1.91 ERA on June 6 was the best on the team, and was fueled by solid start after solid start.

His first 12 starts were solid, but one stood out. While many fans will remember Wacha’s near-no-hitter, Miller had a superior game in May. After a lead-off single by Eric Young, Miller began to turn the Colorado Rockies bats into mush. He finished the game allowing one base-runner, striking out 13 and finishing off the highest rated game of the 2013 season.

Miller was unable to sustain his first half performance, resulting in the rise of Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha during the stretch run. The new additions to the rotation carried the Cardinals to the playoffs, so Miller was bumped out. He only warmed up a couple of times and never saw any action, resulting in the sour taste that I alluded to earlier.

Miller had his highs and lows, but his season numbers looked good for a rookie starter. In His 31 starts this season, Miller posted a 3.06 ERA and 15 wins over a span of 173 and 1/3 innings. His classic stats were good, but his rate stats were outstanding. He ranked in the top 25 in K/9 (8.8) and Hits/9 (7.89), and had a better WHIP than A.J. Burnett, Mat Latos and Kris Medlen. Miller’s late struggles were countered by his early dominance, something that has been forgotten by our shortsightedness, but his season stats earned him a third place finish for the rookie of the year.

Stock Up or Down in 2014?

If you follow the Cardinals, it seems like Miller has been in the system forever, but 2014 will be his age 23 season. He is young, strong and has a great mix of pitches. His heater can live in the mid 90′s, his curveball is sharp but inconsistent and he is working on his change-up. The Cardinals like to grow their pitchers on a consistent pace, increasing the workload by 10% each year. If you increase his innings by this rule, Miller will pitch 190 innings, and anyone who has Yadier Molina behind the plate and Adam Wainwright as a mentor should be able to make the necessary adjustments. The Cardinals also have seven guys competing for five spots in the starting rotation providing protection and competition. So, if Miller gets worn down in the middle of the season he can take a rest without the Cardinals taking too much of a hit.

With all of these factors, I think stock holders for Shelby Miller Inc. will be sipping champagne as Miller goes from a lower half of the rotation guy to a top-tier starter in the National League.

Topics: Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardnials

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