Prospect Smackdown: Shelby Miller vs. Julio Teheran

St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller and Atlanta Braves right-hander Julio Teheran (Photos by Doug Benc [Miller] and Christian Petersen [Teheran], courtesy Getty Images)

Prospect Smackdown: Shelby Miller vs. Julio Teheran

Last week we compared Jameson Taillon and Taijuan Walker.

This week we turn our attention to another pair of premium right-handed pitching prospects, Shelby Miller of the St. Louis Cardinals and Julio Teheran of the Atlanta Braves.


BACKGROUND

Miller: Shelby Miller was drafted in the first round in 2009 out of high school in Brownwood, Texas. Drafted 19th overall, he turned down baseball at Texas A&M, earning a $2,875,000 bonus from St. Louis. He was supposed to be somewhat raw when drafted, but he showed more polish than expected with a very strong full-season debut in the Midwest League in 2010, following that up with an even better campaign in '11. Miller has good mound presence and exudes confidence. He served a week-long suspension last summer due to an alcohol-related infraction but he works hard on the field and his makeup is not a long-term concern.

Teheran:
Teheran was signed in 2007 as a 16-year-old, out of Columbia. He received an $850,000 bonus, which was the biggest bonus paid that year to an international free agent. He most likely would have been a first-round pick if draft-eligible in 2009. His career took off in '10 with strong pitching at three levels, and he punctuated that last year with a terrific season in Triple-A at age 20. Teheran's makeup is considered outstanding, with an excellent work ethic and dedication to the game.

Comparison:
Their backgrounds as coveted amateurs are similar, at least as much as they can be given that one guy is from Texas and the other is from Colombia. Both have the emotional and intellectual equipment to be major league starters, although Teheran is currently more mature. Miller has a bit more growing up to do.

PHYSICALITY, TOOLS, HEALTH

Miller: Miller is a 6-3, 195 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born October 10th, 1990. He is a solid overall athlete. His fastball tops out at 97 MPH and works consistently at 93-95. The heater isn't straight either, with movement that can be overpowering, yet his command of the pitch continues to improve. His curveball is a plus pitch on its best days, and he's made good strides refining his changeup. Miller loves overpowering people with his fastball and the Cardinals have had to encourage him to use the curveball and changeup more often. His control is impressive for a young power pitcher and I don't think command will be a long-term issue. He has a clean-and-free delivery that generates easy heat and should help him stay healthy and durable. He has had no significant injury issues and the Cardinals have built his workload gradually.

Teheran:
Teheran is a 6-2, 175 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born January 27, 1991. He is a good natural athlete and has plenty of zip with his fastball, peaking at 96-97 and working consistently at 93-95. He locates his fastball well. His best secondary pitch is a very strong changeup. Teheran's other pitches are a curveball and a slider. They drew good reviews in the minors, but weren't as impressive during his brief major league trial last year and both pitches need additional consistency, although both have above-average potential. He throws strikes and has a better feel for pitching than most moundsmen his age. Teheran's delivery has some effort and he had issues with shoulder soreness in the low minors, although he's been durable the last two years.

Comparison:
They were born within three months of each other. Miller has more "classic pitcher size" but both are fine athletes. I think their fastballs are comparable. Teheran has a superior changeup, but Miller has a better breaking ball, although paradoxically, Teheran integrates his secondary stuff better than Miller at this point. Miller has easier mechanics and a cleaner health record.

PERFORMANCE

Miller: Miller began 2011 with High-A Palm Beach in the Florida State League, posting a 2.89 ERA with an 81/20 K/BB in 53 innings with just 40 hits allowed. Promoted to the Double-A Texas League, he went 9-3, 2.70 with an 89/33 K/BB in 87 innings. Overall last year he went 11-6, 2.77 with a 170/53 K/BB in 140 innings, with 112 hits allowed and a 0.74 GO/AO and four homers. He has pitched 247 pro innings with an 18-11 record and a 3.17 ERA with a 312/88 K/BB and 214 hits allowed.

Teheran:
Teheran spent 2011 with Triple-A Gwinnett in the International League, going 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA (second in the league) and a 122/48 K/BB ratio in 145 innings. He allowed 123 hits with a 0.80 GO/AO and just five homers allowed. He made three starts for the Braves and two relief appearances, giving up 21 hits and 11 runs in 19.2 innings for a 5.03 ERA, with a 10/8 K/BB and four homers allowed. He has pitched 384 minor league innings in his career so far, with a 28-17 record, a 2.96 ERA, and a 365/110 K/BB ratio.

Comparison:
Miller has more impressive K/IP and H/IP ratios, but Teheran has a better K/BB ratio and has faced more difficult competition, being very young for Triple-A last season.

PROJECTION

Miller: If all goes properly, Miller can be a number one or two starter with three plus pitches and solid command.

Teheran:
If all goes properly, Teheran can be a number one or two starter with two plus pitches, two solid pitches, and excellent command.

Comparison:
Their styles are a bit different, but both of them have the potential to be staff anchors.

SUMMARY
They are very close with background, with Teheran having an edge in current maturity. Their fastballs are similar. Teheran has a better changeup and better current command, but Miller has a better current breaking ball and more classic mechanics. Both have been statistically successful, with Miller having better dominance ratios but Teheran having pitched against tougher competition. Overall it is very close, but I very slightly prefer Miller due to the dominance factors. Both are Grade A prospects. I ranked Miller Number Two on my Top 50 pitching list and Teheran Number Four.

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