Unlike rookie hitters, who can typically help in at least a category or two in fantasy baseball, rookie pitchers have a more difficult task when it comes to making an immediate impact. They rarely make as many starts as their veteran counterparts, and when they do, they are rarely allowed to pitch as deep into games. They get their starts skipped, they’re taken in and out of their team’s rotation, and they are rarely immediately at their full potential.
In general, they’re a lot of work.
But sometimes, a rookie starter has a chance to be a legitimate fantasy player from day one. It often takes a perfect storm of variables in place—a power pitcher with a chance to accumulate strike outs, a big, durable body ready to take on a major league workload, and a strong supporting staff ready to give him plenty of run support.
All of those things describe Shelby Miller and the St. Louis Cardinals.
As the Cardinals top pitching prospect, Miller enters spring training as the front-runner for the final spot in the Cardinals starting rotation. He had a minor setback with his shoulder on Wednesday, but it’s nothing the Cardinals are too worried about. Assuming he is healthy and holds on to the rotation spot that should be his to lose, Miller has a chance to impact your fantasy team from Opening Day.
Miller is a big-bodied power pitcher who has had success at every minor league level throughout his development. His first-round pedigree has set him up for this day when he would join the Cardinals in their quest to remain atop the NL Central.
Because he’s joining a good team, he has the luxury of filling out the back of their rotation instead of being asked to lead it. He should get plenty of run support from his offense, which means he should accumulate more wins than most rookies, even if he rarely pitches into the seventh inning. He has 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings in the minor leagues, and good enough control that he shouldn’t give up too many extra base runners. He even made it to the majors last year, so he shouldn’t be too wide-eyed when his name is called.
Miller is still a rookie, so he shouldn’t be leading your fantasy pitching staff any more than he’s leading the Cardinals. His innings will likely be limited and the chances of him making 32 starts are slim. But if you watch him carefully and monitor the Cardinals usage of him, you should be able to get a valuable fantasy pitcher in the late rounds of your draft.