The Atlanta Braves have upwards of four starting pitchers who could potentially take the fifth spot in the starting rotation behind Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson and Brandon Beachy. In terms of Major League experience, the current favorite may be Mike Minor.
Minor, the Braves' first round draft pick in 2009 who holds the Braves record for largest draftee signing bonus ($2.42 million), has seen action in the last two seasons in the majors and made 15 starts last season. On paper, Minor's career 8-5 record and 4.74 ERA seem fairly pedestrian, his 8.8 K/9 rate shows promise.
His upside is the movement and control of his fastball, which is backed up by a heavy change-up. Though his fastball averages 91-93 miles per hour and can top out around 95 early in the game, it is command of his best two pitches that will net him most of his strikeouts. Minor's curveball has been a work in progress, but he says he has developed some consistency to the pitch and carried over confidence from last season.
“It feels like it did at the end of last season,” Minor told Mark Bowman. “Hopefully I don’t eat my words and struggle with it in Spring Training. But it’s really been feeling good out of my hand.”
One of Minor's issues at the Major League level has been his tendency to nibble around the strike zone, resulting in some inflated walk numbers. That showed in his spot start April 6 as well as May and June. After spending July in the minors, Minor showed better stuff in August and September and, mixed with some bad luck, put together some impressive outings.
The 24-year-old lefty's biggest downfall so far has been his stamina; Minor averaged only 5.5 innings per start last season and has never pitched more than six innings in a Major League start. He also maxed out at 99 pitches twice last season. But, if how he is talking is how he has been working out over the offseason, Minor may finally be able to push seven or eight innings.
“I’m much more excited to get down there than I was the past two years,” Minor said. “Last year at this time I was still relaxing, playing Xbox and that kind of stuff. This year, I’m really excited to get going.”
With his newfound confidence and excitement for mixing it up with the big boys, Minor very well may secure that fifth spot at the end of Spring Training.
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