After a disappointing 2019 that saw him demoted to AAA, AJ Minter has returned in 2020 and proven that he belongs in a major league bullpen.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t working for the Atlanta Braves who were competing for a division title. Of course, the entire Braves bullpen struggled during the first half of 2019, which lead to the acquisitions of Shane Greene, Chris Martin, and Mark Melancon, making it harder for Minter to re-establish himself in the Braves bullpen in 2019.
It is important to bring up that AJ Minter was in a minor car accident in March of 2019 that caused some shoulder issues for him in Spring Training. It is likely that the shoulder issues lingered throughout the season and cost Minter a shot at a productive 2019.
Thankfully, Minter has figured out what was causing the issues in 2019, and has become one of the more reliable pitchers coming out of the phenomenal Atlanta bullpen (3rd best bullpen according to baseball reference) in 2020.
Let’s take a deeper look at AJ Minter and how valuable he’s been so far in 2020.
Returning to Form
As mentioned, Minter had a tough 2019 season, which was a disappointment for both the Braves and Minter. This is because in 2018, Minter showed a lot of promise as he pitched to a 3.23 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 3.62 xFIP while racking up a 1.4 fWAR.
Minter looked like he was starting to reach his full potential, as a late inning reliever. However, 2019 happened and AJ Minter looked lost on the mound, and some worried if he would ever regain his form.
Thankfully for Minter, and the Braves, he figured it out and has been lights out coming out the bullpen so far in 2020. He currently sports a 0.68 ERA, 1.57 FIP, 2.90 xFIP and a current fWAR of 0.5.
In 13.1 innings pitched so far, Minter has only walked 3 men and only allowed 1 run to cross the plate. This includes a left on base percentage of 90.9%. That will play for a bullpen arm.
Minter’s 0.5 fWAR is currently tied for 5th among relievers (fellow Braves Tyler Matzek is tied for 4th with a 0.6 fWAR). Simply put, AJ Minter has bounced back from his forgettable 2019 and has even taken a step forward from his 2018 season.
Going forward, if Minter continues to pitch the way he has in the first month of 2020, he’s going to get more high leverage situations. His resurgence has only strengthened a Braves bullpen that was already considered a strength of the team coming into this season.
While Shane Greene, Chris Martin, Mark Melancon, and, off-season acquisition, Will Smith probably remain ahead of Minter in the pecking order for high leverage situations, Minter is making a case for himself to be put in these situations. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Minter begin appearing in the 7th inning or later more often.
Maybe he doesn’t find himself in the late innings right away, but it is a luxury for the Braves to be able to bring in a guy like Minter in the 4th, 5th, 6th innings when a big out is needed. Sometimes, the most important out can be in a situation in the 4th inning, and bringing in a lights out reliever, like Minter, can be a huge benefit for a team like the Braves who are struggling to find consistent starting pitching.
Another thing to consider, Mark Melancon and Shane Greene are free agents after this season. If AJ Minter continues to impress in 2020, and Melancon and/or Greene becomes too expensive this offseason, the Braves may have an easier time letting one of them walk.
Thankfully, that’s an issue for this off-season. We can worry about Minter’s role in 2021 when that time comes.
In 2020, AJ Minter has bounced back from a rough 2019 and has taken a huge step forward to realizing the potential that many saw in him throughout the minors. More importantly, he has started to show that he is worthy of everyone’s trust and maybe a bigger role in the Braves bullpen.