A much-needed left-handed presence in the rotation, Mike Minor should get his first full year in the majors in 2012. While his 4.74 ERA in the first 23 starts of his career make it look like he has gotten off to a poor start, most of which is due to a .359 BABIP allowed, an unsustainable number. His 3.51 FIP and 3.63 SIERA show he has the skills to sustain good performance. The only starter without an injury the past year, he will be counted on to give around 200 innings of above-average moundwork.
When looking for a good comparison for Minor, we don’t have to go very far. I have called him a left-handed Beachy, with both having good K/BB ratios and flyball tendencies. While Minor was drafted 7th overall, he was not projected with a very high ceiling, but he has surpassed those expectations. His strikeouts have been the major surprise, striking out 22% of batters faced so far in his MLB career. His best pitch is his circle change, pictured above, with 10 inches of fade but not much depth. He’s gotten over 15% whiffs with it, throwing it over 20% of the time. His slower breaking ball has also gotten about 15% whiffs, despite it not being very good. His overall whiff% is not much above average, making his good K rate a little suspect. I would expect him to be closer to 20% this year.
Minor saw his walk rate rise only a little last year after eliminating the intentional walks. He did get ahead of hitters much more though, throwing 64% first-pitch strikes, 6% higher than 2010. This high amount of early strikes may have contributed to his 27% line drives allowed. I do not have data on what he threw on those first pitches, but I’d guess a lot of fastballs. If he can hit spots and mix in the changeup early on, he should not be squared up as often.
His 36% groundball rate is well below average, but it can prove to be successful if he sustains high strikeout numbers. He throws a 4-seamer and changeup over 80% of the time, and both pitches are more conducive to flyballs. His breaking balls will have to improve to get more grounders with his current repertoire. His slower breaking ball (about 80 MPH) is a combination curve/slider, not much lateral movement but more depth than a normal slider. His harder breaking ball is a slider/cutter combo around 84 MPH.
Minor will be an important part of the Braves rotation, with Hudson, Hanson, and Jurrjens recovering from injuries. He also must perform well to hold off Teheran and Delgado from starts after Hudson is ready to begin the season. I see Minor throwing 190-200 innings, compiling around a 3.75 ERA, good for 2-2.5 WAR, very good for a #5 starter.