Right-hander Shelby Miller, the club's first-round Draft pick in 2009, was named the No. 20 prospect in the Minor Leagues by MLB.com on Tuesday. After no Cardinals prospects were named to either the preseason or midseason Top 50 in 2010, this ranking is another sign of the youngster's exciting rise.
The last time St. Louis had a prospect on MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects list, it actually had two -- Colby Rasmus ranked 10th and Brett Wallace ranked 42nd going into the 2009 season.
Miller, who turned 20 after the 2010 season, was named the Cardinals' Minor League pitcher of the year for his superb first full professional season. In 24 starts at Class A Quad Cities, he went 7-5 with a 3.62 ERA, 140 strikeouts and 33 walks in 104 1/3 innings pitched. He capped the year with a brilliant showing in Quad Cities' playoff opener. He pitched seven innings in a 4-0 win, striking out 13 against one walk and two hits.
He'll be back in big league camp again this spring after making a strong impression in Jupiter, Fla., last March, and he's eager to get rolling on his second full pro season.
"[The strong finish] is going to help out a lot," Miller said. "If I can take it into this season, how good I did, and set a goal to be better than I was that second half, you can always be better. No matter how good you're doing or how bad you're doing, you can always do better. I can be better than I was in the second half, but I want to take it into this season and remember it and work off of that."
Miller grabbed plenty of attention last spring at the tender age of 19. He even impressed pitching coach Dave Duncan, who tends to be quite sparing in his public praise of young pitchers. But Miller displayed not only velocity but an advanced feel for pitching, excellent composure and even some quality offspeed stuff.
Now he's looking forward to his second spring with the big league staff. He's likely ticketed for high Class A Palm Beach to start the season, but every session with Duncan can only help the high-ceiling hurler.
"[Duncan] really doesn't say much," Miller said. "He's really good on the mental side of the game. Getting ground balls, getting ahead in the count, that's all he wants you to do. He doesn't want you to strike out any batters. He just wants you to get the batter out. That's awesome out of a pitching coach. He's just the best of the best, and I'm looking forward to spending time with him again."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.