Meet Mike Minor, Mississippi Maestro


Hello again everyone!

Since such a big chunk of the country is getting firsthand experience with Michigan weather, I decided not to whine about hold cold it is here tonight.

Instead, I thought I’d lead with some thoughts on Mike Minor. I’m sure you all remember Mike, he of the late season call-up to Atlanta last year. He’s making headlines in the blogosphere right now, since has ranked him as the number 21 prospect in all of baseball, and the third highest ranked prospect in the Braves organization. This is the same Mike Minor who had people scratching their heads and wondering if the Braves let their budget rather than their scouts decide who to take in the first round of the 2009 draft. Many folks looked at his 89 MPH fastball and his so-so stats at Vanderbilt and slotted him as a number four starter at best.

Lo and behold, though, a transformation seemed to occur when he started wearing Braves jerseys. Suddenly his fastball picked up a NOS bottle, regularly hitting 93+. His off speed stuff gained the speed differential it needed to be effective. He became a strikeout machine at AA Mississippi, notching 109 K’s in only 87 innings pitched. This earned him a quick promotion to AAA, where he became even more dominant, going 4-1 with an ERA under 2.00. Then, as if on cue from Hollywood, injuries to the Braves rotation necessitated his late season call-up to Atlanta. Early results were very positive, including a Braves rookie record 12 strikeout performance against the Cubs.

Alas, the momentum soon ran out for our young hero. Either Major League hitters or fatigue seemed to catch up, as his ERA ballooned to nearly 6.00 and he even lost his spot in the rotation.

That brings us to today. The question for the Braves is simple: is Minor the Maestro of Mississippi that thinks, or the Fumbler in Fulton County from the end of 2010?

In my opinion, he’s probably neither one. While his 160 or so innings pitched don’t sound too tough, it was the biggest workload of his life. Fatigue had to be a factor in his late season collapse. He also pitched in some horrendously bad luck, as his BAbip was almost .400 against a league average of .297. I don’t care who you are, that kind of luck will wear on you after a while. Having watched his every big league outing, I can tell you his confidence was totally shot at the end. Bobby pulling him almost looked like a mercy killing!

I think the truest indicator of potential in a young pitcher has to be stuff. At 22, Minor seems to have grown into his body, and his strength grew as well. If he can operate at 92-93 on the gun, I think his secondary pitches are good enough that he’ll be a solid number three starter. And he’s left handed and breathing, which, barring injury, should assure him a long career. I think the Braves might have gotten lucky with this draft pick, as I think they drafted a frog and landed a prince instead. But I don’t think they even suspected there was a prince hiding under the warts, as it sure seems likely that they were bargain shopping in the first round of the 2009 draft. Do you all agree?