How many times can “best swing in the minors” be repeated before a prospect catches the eyes of the mainstream media? Every time I blink, Keith Law is raving about his classic left-handed swing and Baseball America saying, “simple low maintenance swing … stays calm, quiet, and balanced [at the] plate, using short compact stroke with good bat speed and length through the zone,” with the ability to loft the ball. Has only average power with good plate-discipline, solid contact skills, and handles the bat extremely. Plays adequate to slightly above average defense with good hands, a strong arm, and plus range to both glove side and the SS-3B hole. Struggles to hit for power against lefties and was charged with burglary while at South Carolina University and subsequently expelled, thus was playing at a community college in Pittsburgh. This year, at Double-A in the Eastern League, Chisenhall has a stats page of:
2010 Stats: .267/.341/.410 | 266 AB | 21 XBH | 8 Hr | .143 ISO | 1/0 SB/CS | 38:23 K:BB | .280 BABIP | 43 GB% | 15.4 LD% | 41.7 FB% | 16.2 IF/F%
Career Stats: .269/.337/.447 | 1023 AB | 105 XBH | 35 Hr | .178 ISO | 11/3 SB/CS | 166:91 K:BB | .298 BABIP | 43.1 FB% | 16.8 LD% | 39.5 GB% | 11.9 IF/F%
Maybe that awesome swing contributes to the low average to spite the critics or maybe it’s a career slash line of .241/.327/.378 versus left-handed pitchers (vs. RHP: .289/.348/.478). Gonna guess it’s the latter. Although this year is a small sample size, the splits are even bigger (.216/.290/.398 vs LHP and .292/.367/.417 vs RHP). The increase in fly balls have been offset by a much larger rate of infield fly balls (as compared to his career). His strikeout-to-walk ratio is low on both accounts displaying his ability to make contact and his plate coverage. The power is near average (.143 ISO compared to the universal average of .150 ISO), but as a third baseman this will have to improve; he turns 22 in October, so there is plenty of time to develop more power, especially since he hit 22 homers in 2009. Baseball America predicts his potential to be an above-average major league player. He is on the fast tract to the majors. He’ll be all over everyone’s radar this winter. Like Pedro Alvarez, he struggles against lefties, but this didn’t reduce Alvarez’s hype. Subsequently, Chisenhall should be valued similarly, just be aware of his increasing splits. If he can raise his average even .20 points he should resemble a Ryan Zimmerman. Think .270 to .280 average with 20 to 25 homers for his potential in his first few years in the majors. ETA: 2011.
Rockin’ the cradle here, Miller is still at Class Low-A and spent the majority of June not pitching, something about saving his arm. Drafted out of high school with comparisons to Kerry Wood and Josh Beckett (see: famous Texas high school players), he possesses a 92 to 97 mph fastball with heavy sinking action, typically working within the 92 to 93 mph range; an inconsistent 12-to-6 curveball with good depth (via Keith Law) that sits between 76 to 78 mph with the potential of being a plus-pitch; his changeup is a work in progress with upside to be average. Mechanically speaking, all three of my sources (BA, Keith Law and John Sickels) reported that there is nothing of concern, it’s repeatable, deceptive delivery and his body looks to be durable. Each also said that his command needs some TLC (not from “The Little person Channel either). This is the best pitching prospect for the Cardinals since Rick Ankiel according to Baseball America. With great mound presence, work ethic and your prototypical flame-thrower, Miller has a lot to be excited about. This season he has performed:
2010 Stats: 12.4 K/9 | 3.1 BB/9 | 52 1/3 IP | 3.96 ERA | 2.80 FIP | 1.26 WHIP | .5 Hr/9 | 8.3 H/9 | .357 BABIP | 42.2 GB% | 10.9 LD% | 34.7 FB% | 14.9 IF/F% | 5.9 Hr/FB%
Career Stats: Only pitched three innings in 2009
The command doesn’t look like as much of an issue, but he hasn’t pitched more than 5 1/3 innings all year (only two of his outings were cut short because of poor performance). With a FIP nearly a run lower than his ERA, he has pitched extremely well, though it helps when you’re opponents aren’t making a lot of solid contact (10.9 LD% and 14.9 IF/F%). Remember the comments about a “heavy sinking fastball?” Yeah, well, that’s not really happening (42.2 GB%). The strikeouts are great, but a good fastball makes any pitcher look great in Single-A ball. He needs to be promoted to at least High-A and maybe Double-A until we can really make a good judgment about Shelby Miller when he is facing better hitters. Keith Law contradicts Baseball America saying, “[Miller] won’t fly through the minors … but looks to be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher.” The hype is just beginning, I want to be on this wagon early but won’t recommend him, yet, over other pitching prospects like Zack Britton, Julio Teheran, Jordan Lyles, Mike Minor, or Simon Castro among others. ETA: 2013 and a 2012 mid-season call-up with a late 2011 taste of the majors.
*Disclaimer: Stats are from 7/16/2010.