Shelby Miller, the Cards' first round draft pick in this year's draft, has now been signed, sealed, and delivered, to the tune of $2.875 million. Good for him, and good for the Cardinals. They badly needed to get this deal done, in order to begin restocking a farm system now barren after it was raided so violently in recent months. The deal was first reported by Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, via Twitter.
At this point, I believe I would have to put Miller at the very top of the Cards' prospect lists going into 2010. He has easily the most upside of any pitching prospect in the system, and probably more than any position player. All the remaining prospects in the system right now have their warts; Daryl Jones' numbers were down this year from his breakout 2008 as he played through injuries, Jaime Garcia is still on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery, Lance Lynn is a backend starter, and a guy like Eduardo Sanchez, while he's made a monstrous leap this season, is strictly a reliever. Even Roberto de la Cruz and Wagner Mateo, the Cards' two recent Latin bonus babies, are only seventeen and sixteen years old, respectively. Looking through the options, I would give Miller the edge over just about any of them.
This also is incredibly encouraging to see in that the Cardinals bucked the commissioner's ridiculous slot recommendations. While the Cards have played nice and stuck with the guidelines, teams like the Tigers, Cubs, Red Sox, and Yankees have all shown a willingness to go well over slot and reaped the resulting talent windfall. If MLB wants to control draft bonuses, they need to implement a hard slot the way the NBA does; until then, teams obeying the slot recommendations are just handicapping themselves further. The Cards did the smart thing this year, loosened the purse strings, and took advantage of the fact a top talent was still there for them at #19.
There's no guarantee Miller ever gets to St. Louis, of course, and even if he does, the very earliest we might see him is probably September of 2011. Still, I think this qualifies as a red-letter day here in Cardinal Nation, as the Cards really got it right. Congratulations and kudos to Jeff Luhnow and his staff for making a gutsy pick, and the same to Bill DeWitt and company for backing up his guys and forking over the dough.