ST. LOUIS -- They're both right-handed. They're both in the Cardinals organization. They both throw hard. And they're both among baseball's best prospects. But while Cardinals fans often think of Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez as a matched set, they're far from peas in a pod.
Miller was named the No. 5 prospect in professional baseball, while Martinez ranked No. 30, in MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list, issued on Wednesday. They are the twin jewels of the St. Louis organization. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2012.
This year's edition of MLB.com's Top Prospects list has expanded from 50 to 100 players. The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLB.com's Draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo, who compiles input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams.
The Texan Miller is relatively polished. The 2012 season could well represent little more than finishing school for the former first-round Draft pick, who needs to do things like refine his offspeed pitches and hone secondary skills like holding runners and fielding his position. He dominated at two levels in 2011 en route to being named the Cardinals' Minor League pitcher of the year.
Martinez, a 20-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, is farther from the big leagues. He blew away hitters at Class A Quad Cities but found the going rough at times at Class A Advanced Palm Beach, and there's a good chance he could start 2012 at the same level where he ended 2011. Where Miller's need is to flesh out his repertoire, Martinez will be working on something more fundamental: his fastball command.
They're both exciting, though. They both manage what's sometimes called "easy" velocity, the ball leaping out of their hands. And they both have Cardinals fans eager to see what they have to offer in the big leagues. It's just that the wait is likely to be a bit longer for Martinez.
"[Miller has] a great fastball, and he's going to be primarily a power pitcher throughout his career," said Cardinals farm director John Vuch. "So we're not trying to take that away from him by any means. But we know that to be successful at the Major League level, he needs to work on his breaking pitch and his changeup. He's doing that more, and he needs to continue to do that."
Of Martinez, Vuch said: "He's got a great arm, and he's got the breaking pitch. He's almost the opposite of Shelby in some ways, in that we almost had to try to persuade him to throw his fastball more. He's got a good breaking pitch and a change, and he likes to use all of his pitches. We're trying to find a sweet spot, where it's not all fastball, and it's not all offspeed."
Miller is now close enough to the big leagues that he can taste it. He said recently at the annual Winter Warm-Up fan festival that he has designs on making an appearance with the big club in 2012. It's not inconceivable that it happens by the end of the year, though the odds are stacked heavily against Miller making the club out of Spring Training. More likely, he'll go to Triple-A for the first time at the start of the year.
"I think that my time will come soon," Miller said. "If it's not this year, it's going to be next year. I'm going to keep doing the right things, keep doing all the stuff, trying to get better as a pitcher, working with all my pitches, and I think everything will fall into place. I think it's going to happen. ... Whether it's in relief, whether I get to start, I just want to be there at some point. I think it's going to happen, as long as I'm doing my part of it."
He's already well on the way, and Martinez is coming up behind him.