It’s time to start getting really excited about Cardinals pitching prospect Shelby Miller.
The 2009 first-round draft pick made his home debut for Double-A Springfield on Friday night, striking out nine batters in six strong innings of work.
Miller had eight punch-outs through his first three innings and looked to be cruising, but shoddy defense gave way to three opposing runs — two of which were earned — in his final three frames. He was pulled after throwing 97 pitches.
Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was in Springfield on Friday for the debut and had a series of observations in his Saturday report on the outing. Miller hit 97 MPH with his first fastball of the night and hung right around the low- to mid-90s the entire outing. He didn’t feature many breaking pitches, but the ones he did throw were effective. He’s expected to begin working on finding a more balanced arsenal in his time at Double-A.
Miller, 20, now has 14 strikeouts in 12 innings since earning his promotion to Springfield. He had 81 Ks in 53 innings this year at Single-A Palm Beach and fanned 140 batters across 104.1 innings in 2010.
If everything continues to go according to plan, Miller could be in the majors by mid-2012. ESPN’s Keith Law recently ranked him the fourth-best prospect in baseball and he stands a good chance of becoming an ace.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.