On December 9th, 2015, the Arizona Diamondbacks attempted to upgrade their pitching rotation by trading Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson, and Aaron Blair to the Atlanta Braves for the solid right-hander Shelby Miller. At the time of the exchange, many experts wrote that then-GM Dave Stewart got fleeced by the Braves, and so far it has lived up to that evaluation. This is the year that notion starts to change.
Shelby Miller with the Cardinals
Shelby Miller was drafted 19th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2009 MLB Draft out of Brownwood High School in Brownwood, Texas. After a few seasons in the minor leagues, he worked his way up to the 2nd best prospect in all of baseball. He then made his major league debut later in 2012, appearing in 6 games while starting one.
The rookie Miller caught many eyes with a fabulous 2013 campaign. He went 15-9 while striking out 169 batters in 173.1 innings pitched. His 3.06 ERA put him in 3rd place for the Rookie of the Year vote behind newly born sensations Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig. Shelby Miller also threw a complete game shutout that season while retiring 27 straight Colorado Rockies after surrendering a leadoff single to Eric Young Jr.
Shelby’s 2014 sophomore season was not quite as good as 2013, but it was not bad by any means. He went 10-9 with a 3.74 ERA, and his strikeout numbers declined by only fanning 127 in 183 innings pitched. Miller threw another complete game shutout in 2014 which continued to show his big-game potential.
In a blockbuster deal in the following offseason, the Cardinals flipped Miller and pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins to the Atlanta Braves for the young star right fielder Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden. This trade made sense as it filled needs for both teams, and Heyward was only under control for one more year.
Shelby Miller with the Braves
Shelby Miller returned to showing off his best stuff in 2015. He posted a 3.02 ERA in 205.1 innings while striking out 171. Miller’s record of 6-17 would make it seem like he pitched poorly, but in reality, he rarely got any run support from his offense. Shelby threw two more complete game shutouts for the Braves in 2015, including this heartbreaker against the Marlins:
Miller once again looked great like in 2013, and he was consistently going out with his top of the rotation stuff. He truly looked like an elite ace at times and even earned himself All-Star honors in 2015. Shelby Miller’s stellar 2015 made his trade value go through the roof, and a team was bound to throw a trade package together to get him. Little did anybody know that the Arizona Diamondbacks would make an offer that the Braves could not refuse.
The package that Dave Stewart gave up may have seemed slightly justified to some at the time, but in reality, he gave up way too much. Inciarte has become a great center fielder for the Braves while earning one All-Star honor and winning two Gold Gloves in two years. Shelby Miller, on the other hand, has not lived up to what the Diamondbacks traded for.
Shelby Miller with the Diamondbacks
Let’s make it clear, Shelby Miller has been terrible for the Diamondbacks since he arrived. His performance has not helped the fact that many thought Arizona gave too much to get him in the first place. Dave Stewart essentially dug his own grave with this move.
In the 2016 and 2017 seasons, before Miller had to get Tommy John surgery, he posted a 5.78 ERA over 123 innings pitched and only K’d 90 batters. With only 5 wins and 14 losses, Shelby was also on and off the disabled list with finger problems after repeatedly scratching it on the ground through his pitching motion.
Other than having to get Tommy John this past season and these weird finger scrapes, Miller just has not been good. The Diamondbacks really thought they were getting a top of the rotation starter to pair with Zack Greinke and help dominate teams with their pitching, their biggest weakness the past few years. Shelby Miller has struggled for the D-Backs from the beginning, and it all started with his first D-Back start. Just watch Jake Arrieta hit an absolute BOMB off of him in that game.
Many fans are ready to write Miller off and want him to have absolutely nothing to do with the team, but I think a major turnaround for him is in the works.
Why Miller will Turn it Around
Shelby Miller has to go back to his 2013/2015 self at some point, doesn’t he? I say yes. A 2016 complete game shutout gave me some hope that the old Shelby Miller is still trapped deep down in there and is just waiting to bust out.
Yes, he did have Tommy John surgery recently, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I think that this was a break from baseball that Miller desperately needed, and he will come back as ready as he has ever been. Shelby will be a big part of the Diamondbacks’ continued success in 2018 and will make one of the better pitching staffs in baseball even better.
Shelby really is a good pitcher who is still fairly young and has plenty of time to improve. Watching some of his starts like his near no-hitter and the start where he retired 27 straight shows me that he has the killer mindset to be an All-Star once again.
I really hope to see a determined Shelby Miller back on the mound sometime in the early 2018 season. He is a very fun pitcher to watch and root for when he has his electric stuff. Miller is only 27 years old, so he is right in his prime and can get over these past 2 years of poor performances with a solid comeback year. The Diamondbacks will take it slow with him this year because they have a lot of rotation depth, but expect to see Miller play some sort of a role for another Diamondbacks postseason run.
Junior Finance major at the University of Arizona. Writing articles on the Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Suns, and all things U of A for The Sunrise Sports.