Much of the conversation surrounding the offseason needs of the Atlanta Braves have centered on the starting rotation. Although they ended the 2013 campaign with 96 wins and a division title, many feel that the team fell short of their lofty postseason goals due to a lack of experienced starting pitching and the absence of a true No. 1 atop the staff.
Sitting at the cusp of a new calendar year, the Braves have not yet been successful in landing the ace that some suggest they so desperately need. Those individuals have been heavily critical of the Braves’ front office recently, but what needs to be realized is that the organization may have come to the apt conclusion that 26-year-old southpaw Mike Minor is already among the best starters in the game.
At the 2012 All-Star Break, Minor, who was in the midst of his first full season as a member of the rotation, sat at 5-6 and had given up 19 homers in just 92 innings on his way to a simply putrid 5.97 ERA. However, during the mid-July intermission that summer, something apparently clicked for the 2009 first-round draft selection out of Vanderbilt.
Since that time, including his stellar 2013, Minor has put up a record of 19-13 while sporting a fantastic 2.89 ERA and 1.02 WHIP throughout 46 starts. Those numbers compare very favorably to some of the top hurlers around the league. Minor’s statistics in that stretch display a better ERA than Chris Sale, a lower WHIP than David Price and more victories than Matt Cain has recorded.
Minor really showed what he was made of this past October in Game 2 of the NLDS versus the Los Angeles Dodgers and former Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke. As he toed the rubber for the first time in postseason play, Minor began to show the poise and promise of a true ace. He left the game that night with one out in the seventh inning after allowing just one run while striking out five as the Braves went on to an eventual 4-3 win.
Braves GM Frank Wren may or may not acquire a frontline starting pitcher before the 2014 Regular Season gets underway. There is still plenty of time for moves to be made. No matter how matters turn out on that front, one thing is for sure: the top of the Atlanta rotation will feature a very capable left arm.