Cardinals top prospect Shelby Miller now pitching at Double-A

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The Cardinals selected Texas high school pitcher Shelby Miller with the 19th overall pick in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft, confident that his sharp high-90s fastball could one day make him a major league ace.

That day may be coming soon.

Miller was promoted to Double-A Springfield last week after opening the 2011 season with a 2.89 ERA and a dominant 81/20 K/BB ratio over 53 innings at High-A Palm Beach. He struck out 140 batters in 104 1/3 innings last season with Low-A Quad Cities, issuing only 33 walks along the way.

This winter, Baseball America rated Miller as the 13th-best prospect in baseball. ESPN’s Keith Law had him as baseball’s No. 4 prospect last week.

The 20-year-old right-hander made his debut for the Springfield Cardinals on Friday in front of friends and family in Corpus Christi, Texas. He allowed just one earned run over six strong innings, fanning five batters against two walks and scattering seven hits to earn his first career victory above the Single-A level.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a quick profile of Miller late Saturday night. The Cardinals, who preach a pitch-to-contact approach with most of their starters, have been slowly molding his off-speed stuff to be as effective as his signature heater. Instead of throwing a looping curveball like he did in high school, Miller now has a “power curve” that is tighter and pairs better with his fastball.

Miller could jump to Triple-A Memphis by the start of next season and could arrive in the majors by mid-2012.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.