Mikie Minor. My boy. About six months ago, even I — seemingly the last Braves Journal regular with any hope for his future — privately confided in Alex that I thought he needed a change of scenery. Now, much to my delight, he looks like one of the most promising young pitchers in the game. Let’s start with a brief recap of his history with the Braves:
- After a good (but, frankly, not elite) three years at the finest institution of higher learning in America, drafted with the 7th pick in the 2009 draft, much to the disappointment of the average Braves fan, considering his reputation as a command/finesse lefty and the numerous upside plays still on the board
ed. note: right after the draft, Stu wrote him up for my old blog, Chop-n-Change. It was a great rundown; if anything, Stu was overly conservative in his projection.
- Added three mph to his fastball in the minors and proceeded to blow everyone away, suddenly making it look like the organization knew what it was doing in drafting him
- Showed flashes (including a 13-strikeout game against the Cubs), but generally was only OK in his work in the majors before 2012
- Made a weird comment in 2012 Spring Training that was interpreted by some fans as a preemptive trade request, should he not make the 2012 rotation, thereby removing some benefit of the doubt he might otherwise have had
- Was awesome in ST and April
- Was a University-of-Tennessee-Athletic-Department-like dumpster fire in May and June, including a postgame comment blaming the defense for some of his struggles, which brought back all of those cold-pricklies from ST
- Was awesome in July, August, September, and October.
It’s been a pretty wild ride, and he’s only turning 25 in two weeks. All of these ups and downs, when aggregated, look like a pretty solid #4 starter. His 2012 numbers: 179 1/3 IP; 4.12 ERA (97 ERA+); 4.38 FIP; 4.32 xFIP; 7.28 K/9; 2.59 K/BB; 1.30 HR/9. (Not all that off his career numbers, which makes sense, given that almost 60% of his career innings came this year: 302 2/3 IP; 4.37 ERA [90 ERA+]; 4.03 FIP; 4.04 xFIP; 7.88 K/9; 2.73 K/BB; 1.16 HR/9.)
Like BJ Upton (like most players?), though, the aggregate doesn’t seem to paint a picture of who Mike Minor was at any given moment. In 2012, he was either top-of-the-rotation quality or belonging in Gwinnett, with very little in-between. His monthly FIP:
I don’t pretend to be a pitching expert, and I’m a total amateur at statistical analysis, but what my eyes told me seems to be backed up by the data: He got bombed when he nibbled (fell behind hitters, leading either to walks or runs in bunches off of gopher balls), but he was really good when he had his command. His monthly K/BB and HR allowed:
Mar/Apr.: 3.75; 3
May: 1.62; 10
June: 1.24; 5
July: 6.50; 4
August: 3.80; 3
Sept./Oct.: 3.11; 1
Now, did he figure out some secret that he’ll be able to keep with him, making those good K/BB (and FIP) months the norm, or will he have extended periods where he loses his command again and is the worst starter in the league? I have no idea. And as you can see, he’s a little homer-prone even when he’s going well. But when he’s on, he’s really good — I’m banking on his mastering his command as he enters his prime and being a legit #2 starter. Per FanGraphs, he was worth 1.4 wins in 2012, and that was with two insanely-bad months. Three- or four-win seasons don’t seem all that unlikely to this fanboy.
I don’t see much of a platoon split — against lefties, his results are slightly worse, but his peripherals are slightly better. Surprisingly (to me), he threw a lot more breaking balls and a lot fewer changeups last year than he had in the past. The changeup was his out pitch in college and was the reason I thought he could be successful in the pros. I would look for that changeup percentage to go back up a bit this year. His fastball velocity (90.9) seems to have settled between what it was in college and what it jumped to in the minors, but as long as he’s commanding it and his secondary pitches, that’s plenty-fast. Some noted that he really struggled with men on base in 2012, suggesting a mechanical flaw — while his K/BB numbers were noticeably worse with runners on, his HR% was actually better. I don’t know what these trends mean or whether they’re likely to continue. It’s unclear why I even bothered discussing these findings.
Anyway. He’s probably never going to be a real fan-favorite, because he’s so introverted and expressionless, but he could be a very valuable pitcher. It’s fair to say that my hopes for Mikie are quite high.