Finally, the top high school righthanded pitcher in the 2009 draft class. Because we’ve already spoiled the surprise in the title, let’s get right down to it. Before we do that, here’s the rest of the list:
1. Shelby Miller – Brownwood HS (Texas)
Miller has established himself as the premier high school righthanded pitcher of the 2009 draft class. While Miller is an outstanding prospect who carries a no doubt about it first round grade, the distinction as best high school righthanded pitcher doesn’t carry quite the same weight this year as it may have carried in years past. Unlike the gargantuan distance between the top two high school lefthanders and the rest of the prep lefty field, there is very little that separates the “elite” group of high school righties from the rest of the group. I wonder if that’s a byproduct of the very nature of what makes up a “high school righthanded pitching prospect.” Or maybe this particular class of high school righthanders just so happens to have a whole bunch of similarly talented players. I don’t know. What I do know is that the 2009 high school righthanders are a talented bunch headed up by a pretty exciting young player in Shelby Miller. Miller is just one of five high school righthanders that currently carry near-consensus first round grades, a list that also includes Jacob Turner, Mychal Givens, Zack Wheeler, and Scott Griggs. Miller is also one of a whopping seven pitchers that I personally consider first round caliber talents out of this group – the five aforementioned arms, plus Keyvius Sampson and Brooks Pounders, should be first rounders come June when it all comes together for them this spring.
No picture before the jump, but instead words of empirically juiced up wisdom from a man much smarter than I. The three groups referred to here are high school pitchers, college pitchers, and college hitters, by the way. Read, ponder, and then kindly check out more on the top prep righty after the jump…
Draft Rule #8: There is virtually no difference whatsoever in the value of the other three groups of draft picks. In particular, it is no longer apparent that high school pitchers, even in the first round, are significantly riskier than either high school hitters or college pitchers.
From 1992 to 1999, pitchers out of college returned 14.6% less value than expected. Pitchers drafted out of high school were at -14.9%. High school hitters checked in at -20.9%.
Interesting, right? The information is now a bit dated, but the conclusions are still relevant today.
Miller’s fastball sits between the upper 80s and the low 90s (88-92), and he is capable of dialing it up to 93/94 MPH when necessary. His frame is reminiscent of those of Matt Graham, Scott Griggs, Daniel Tuttle, and Zack Wheeler (remember how there is a thin line separating all of these righties?), so everything positive suggested about those other players’ bodies filling out accompanied by velocity pick-me-ups apply to Miller as well. This is a pretty good class of high school pitching when it comes to velocity, so it’s easy to lose sight of how rare it is to see a high schooler with such a fine combo of mid-90s heat, workable (or better) secondary stuff, and better than average command. Take a look at big league starting pitchers with legit mid-90s peak velocities some time. I bet you’ll be surprised at the disparity between fastball speed perception and reality. I know I was.
His offspeed stuff is quality, with a mid-70s curveball (potential plus pitch alert) and an 80 MPH changeup. I’ve heard of a slider being worked on, but don’t have any concrete information to actually comment on it. His command is good, not great, but good command out of a high school pitcher is a fine jumping off point.
Miller’s delivery looks clean and his arm action loose and easy, but what stands out about his mechanics is his tremendous balance. His excellent mechanics help lead to one of Miller’s standout attributes – his uncanny ability to hold velocity late into ballgames. Reports have Miller hitting his peak velocities (93/94 MPH) even as his pitch counts vaulted past the century mark late in the season. We talked earlier about having a special skill that helps you stand out – great velocity and the ability to muscle up enough to hold it late into games is one of Miller’s defining characteristics as a young prospect.