Not a Minor Debut
No, his stat line wasn’t the best thing ever seen (6IP, 5H, 3ER, BB, 5K is still pretty good). And no, he didn’t get the win.
None of that matters though. Mike Minor’s debut was reason for celebration. Consider that the only other 2009 draftees to make it to the big leagues so far are Stephen Strasburg (#1 overall), Mike Leake (#8 overall), and Drew Storen (#10 overall).
His ascent through the minor leagues was exceptional. He was dominant in 4 starts with the Rome Braves last year and made a strong impression in the Arizona Fall League. He started off 2010 in Mississippi and pitched well, averaging 11.3 K’s/9. He quickly showed he was too good for Gwinnett, sporting a 1.89 ERA, 37 K’s, 19 H and 12 BB through 33.1 innings. His peripheral stats were excellent, and he was leading the minor leagues in strikeouts at the time of his call up.
Atlanta’s selection of Mike Minor with the 7th pick of the 2009 draft was met with much ridicule. Analysts said he was only a fifth starter, at best, and his upside didn’t warrant such a high selection. The guy got no respect despite his track record. He was unhittable in high school and was selected by Tampa in the 13th Round of the 2006 draft. He chose to attend Vanderbilt instead, honoring his prior commitment to the school, and made the SEC All Freshman team in 2007. He led the team in wins and strikeouts as a sophomore and then carried the USA National Team that summer going 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA (while overshadowing teammate Stephen Strasburg on the team) in route to being named Baseball America’s Summer Player of the Year. He finished a solid senior season off and headed to the draft as one of the best college arms available. Why he was considered such a reach at seven remains unknown. Mike Minor was a winner.
So just one year and three days after signing his first professional contract, Mike Minor made his Major League debut; and as quickly as he showed he was one the best prospects in the minors, he established himself as one of the better young lefties in the game.
He showed the poise that convinced the Braves to take him with their first round selection in the 2009 draft. He displayed the increased velocity on his fastball that had scouts projecting him more like a #3 SP, rather than the #5 he was viewed as last summer. Most importantly, he proved he has the guts to throw his fastball often, inside and out, while attacking with first pitch strikes. He challenged hitters, trusted in his stuff, and mixed in his best pitch, a plus change-up, to keep hitters on their toes.
Granted, he wasn’t perfect. He threw a few mistakes. Brett Wallace taught him what happens when you serve up fastballs on a platter, so maybe he learned that lesson. He relied on his fastball maybe too much and could probably rely on the change as an out pitch more often. His curveball could use some refining, and he needs to make sure he keeps the change down. But let’s be honest, he did very, very well for himself.
With Medlen out, we needed him to step up. Minor is a much better option than Kawakami with a playoff spot on the line. Having a lefty present in the rotation will help, and who knows, that could be even more valuable with 6 games left against the Phillies. He’ll be a reliable starter the last two months, and his development will be better after having spent time pitching important ball games in September, and hopefully October, too.
He’s proven he belongs and established himself as an important piece to the rotation down the stretch and for years to come. Welcome Mike Minor, soon enough you’ll start winning games – lots of ‘em.