As Rick Ankiel’s 13-year run with the St. Louis Cardinals organization neared its end, his replacement at least at one level arrived. When then-18-year-old Shelby Miller came to terms on the final day eligible in August, his $2.875 million deal became the highest bounty paid to a Cardinals draft pick since Ankiel received $2.5 million in 1997, also at the tender age of 18.
Miller broke recent convention in another manner as he became the first high school pitcher taken by the Cardinals in the initial round of the First-Year Player Draft since they selected Brian Barber with their third choice in 1991’s first round. (Ankiel was a second-round pick.)
Expectations are very high, as the Brownwood, Texas native was informally tabbed as the Cardinals next great pitching hope and immediately vaulted to the top of many organizational prospect-watchers’ lists.
Miller is expected to help replenish the high end of the Cardinals minor league pecking order after summer trades took away five of the organization’s picks from the first two rounds of the 2006 through 2008 drafts.
St. Louis’ first-round choice in the 2009 draft, taken 19th overall, was initially showcased at Busch Stadium after signing, then threw batting practice in Quad Cities before making a pair of cameo appearances for the River Bandits to end his first season as a Cardinal.
Miller reportedly featured a fastball that topped out at 94 mph with a change-up and curveball as his secondary pitches. He yielded two earned runs on five hits and a pair of walks and added a pair of strikeouts over his first three professional innings.
The 6-foot-3, 207-pound right-hander’s fastball was regularly clocked in the mid-90s during the high school season. For Brownwood High, Miller posted a 10-2 record with a 1.90 ERA while striking out 153 batters in 77 innings.
Miller is expected to return to the Class-A Midwest League to start the 2010 season where he will likely appear in the battery with the Cards’ 2009 second-round pick, 20-year-old catcher Robert Stock.
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