Mike Minor has had a quiet offseason thus far, and that’s not a bad thing. Much of the focus concerning the Atlanta Braves‘ rotation has been on Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran and Brandon Beachy. There are more questions around those for various reasons, but it also speaks to the progression he made last season. Minor showed he can be an effective MLB pitcher for an extended period of time at the end of 2012. The question now becomes whether he can put that together for a full season and be a top line starter.
2012 Recap: The 2012 season was a tale of two stories for Minor. At the end of June, he was 4-6 with a 6.20 ERA and many wondered why the Braves were sticking with him. However, he managed to lower his ERA over the next three months to 5.18 to 4.79 to 4.12 at the end of September. Over those three months Minor gave up more than three earned runs in just one start (4), and in September he allowed just three earned runs in 31 innings. He found his stride to close out the 2012 season and will look to continue his success in 2013.
2013 Outlook: Something clicked for Minor at some point in 2012. He was a completely different pitcher for the first three months than the last three months. His numbers seem to indicate it’s as simple as not walking people and not giving up home runs. The first three months he walked 38 batters and gave up an astounding 18 home runs. In the same amount of starts over the last three months he walked 18 batters and allowed eight home runs.
It appears like a simple formula for Minor to have success in 2013. Don’t walk people and don’t give up home runs. How he executes that gameplan is much more complicated. The key to executing that will be how he locates his pitches. Minor was never afraid to throw his changeup in hitter counts or work both sides of the plates. When he got in trouble was when he left the changeup up and catching too much of the plate, or tried to come inside with his fastball and didn’t get it far enough inside. He learned to nibble on the corners much more effectively, enabling him to cut down on his home runs and at the same time his walks.
I’ll be the first to admit I saw Minor’s ceiling as a No. 3 pitcher and would most likely be a back-end starter in his career. The Braves’ patience looked to pay off with him as he proved that he can be a top-end guy. With three plus pitches, improved location and increasing confidence, Minor has what it takes to cut down his ERA this season by more than a half-run and win 15 games. That’s a top-end starter. Lucky for Minor, he’s flying under the radar this Spring Training and can have the success of a top-end guy without feeling the pressure of one.