ST. LOUIS -- Two players who have taken wildly different paths in their young professional careers garnered the Cardinals' top Minor League honors on Wednesday.
Right-handed pitcher Shelby Miller, the club's top prospect practically since the day he was drafted, was named the organization's Pitcher of the Year. First baseman Matt Adams, a late-round Draftee who has had to force his way onto the prospect radar, picked up Player of the Year laurels.
Both were selected in the same Draft, in 2009. Miller, however, was a high-dollar first-round pick out of a Texas high school, a player widely regarded as a top-tier talent who fell a bit due to signability worries. Adams was a 23rd-rounder out of Slippery Rock University. Miller, despite being two years younger, went straight to full-season ball to start his career. Adams, a college product, started out in the Rookie-level Appalachian League.
What they have in common, though, is that each has produced at every level. They were teammates at Double-A Springfield in 2011, and could well be reunited at Triple-A Memphis in '12. Each is blocked from the Major League club at this point, but if they keep performing the way they have, they will insinuate themselves into the picture one way or another.
Miller, who turned 21 after the season ended, split the year between high Class A Palm Beach and Springfield. He went a combined 11-6 with a 2.77 ERA, 170 strikeouts, 53 walks and four home runs allowed in 139 2/3 innings.
He was a Florida State League All-Star selection and once again appeared in the XM All-Star Futures Game. Miller is the first player to win the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award in consecutive years since Rick Ankiel in 1998-99.
"Shelby had another tremendous season in 2011," Cardinals farm director John Vuch said in a release issued by the team. "He had success against hitters at two very different levels, while simultaneously continuing to make steady progress working on the things he'll need to do in order to be effective at the highest levels. It's exciting to watch him continue to mature into a more polished and complete pitcher."
Adams, 23, jumped from low Class A Quad Cities in 2010 straight to Springfield in 2011, and looked like he belonged the whole time. Adams hit .300 with a .357 on-base percentage, a .566 slugging percentage, 32 home runs and 101 RBIs in 115 games for the S-Cards, setting Springfield franchise records in homers and RBIs.
"Matt was challenged on the first day of Spring Training with the possibility of making the jump straight from the Midwest League to the Texas League," Vuch said in the release. "His response to that opportunity was impressive. Not only did he compile a remarkable offensive season with the bat, but he also was very solid in the other aspects of his game, while demonstrating outstanding leadership qualities."
Both players will be honored at the annual St. Louis Baseball Writers' Dinner. The dinner is set for Jan. 15, 2012, at the Millennium Hotel in downtown St. Louis.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.