|Man, I haven't broken out this picture in a long time. Feels good, you know? |
The 2012 season has been, by and large, a somewhat forgettable one for Shelby Miller
. He entered the season as the number one ranked prospect in the Cardinals
' system and one of the top rated pitching prospects in all of baseball. It didn't seem like things could get much better, even with the mild concerns Miller had managed to raise in 2011 with an alcohol-related team suspension and a few other maturity bumps along the way.
I said it didn't seem like things could get much better; for most of the season things absolutely did not. Shelby was very bad for a big chunk of the season. An ERA well north of 5.00 and a home run rate in the stratosphere doesn't exactly scream out 'top prospect', even in the very tough Pacific Coast Leage.
But if most of the season has been forgettable, the last few weeks you might want to make sure you remember. Because they've been sort of special in Shelbyland.
It all started going bad for Miller in the offseason, when he took his workouts a little too seriously and showed up for spring training looking more Karen Carpenter
than Chris Carpenter
. In an attempt to get into the BSOHL (Best Shape of His Life, a state common to players coming in to spring training, particularly when a narrative is needed to explain why the previous season's issues are no longer applicable), Shelby had dropped his weight -- and more specifically his body fat -- well below where the organization wanted him to. The Cardinals corrected his training, but the damage had already been done. Miller wasn't in the kind of condition the team wanted him in, and the whispers started up anew about the kid from Texas. Considering the last monster prospect to come through the Cards' system turned out to be Colby Rasmus
and his carload of baggage, perhaps it is inevitable Miller's mental makeup will be heavily critiqued.
Things got worse when the season started, as Miller's meteoric rise through the system hit its first major snag. Triple A ball is a tough assignment for a kid just out of his teens, but it was a little surprising to see Shelby struggle so badly. In retrospect, we really should have all expected him to hit a tough patch somewhere along the line. Instead, it was shocking enough that people started jumping off the Shelby Miller bandwagon left and right.
Well, it looks as if all that might be coming to an end now. Shelby Miller, ladies and gentlemen, is officially Back on Track.