Okay, so maybe it’s not the return of Greinke…or anything like Greinke for that matter. Nonetheless, the Royals signed ex-Detroit Tiger Zach Miner, a right-handed pitcher, to a minor-league deal today. It’s not a hugely notable deal, but it could have an impact down the line. So, I want to run over a few things about Miner.
The first thing to note about this is that Miner is a 28-year-old pitcher with four years of major league experience. He missed all of 2010 and underwent Tommy John surgery, so it’s hard to know what we’ll get from him. If you’re wondering why Dayton may have targeted Miner, he was a draft pick of the Braves in the 2000 Draft. So, there’s that. And if you remember our old buddy Roman Colon, well, he and Miner were traded from the Braves to the Tigers in 2006 for another old friend – Kyle Farnsworth. It’s funny how these things work out, isn’t it?
As for Miner’s actual talents, he seems similar to a Bullington or Humber character that the Royals have experienced before. In his four years with the Tigers, he made 35 starts and 122 relief appearances. Over that time, he compiled a 4.24 ERA and a 4.49 FIP, so he’s actually been just a hair bit lucky. He’s only thrown 357 total innings in his career, which averages to about 89.1 innings per season. That’s obviously not a starter’s workload, so considering him as a (strong) candidate for the fifth starter position seems a little rash to me.*
*After the comment of the great John Parent, who runs the Motor City Bengals (Tigers) site on Fansided, I looked up Miner’s splits. As a starter, he’s had a 4.65 ERA with a 1.75 K/BB in 182 innings. In 35 starts, that’s about 5.1 innings per start. He has fewer strikeouts as a starter, but also fewer walks. As a reliever, Miner’s had a 3.60 ERA in 175 innings over 122 appearances. He’s given up almost twice as many home runs in his starts as his relief appearances. He just tended to walk many more batters as a reliever, which is a curious thing. Anyway, just wanted to make that clear.
Miner has a standard set of a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. He’s consistently thrown his fastball, which averages about 90-92 MPH, roughly 63% of the time. His three other pitches have varied a bit more in occurrence, but their frequencies are in order of changeup, slider, and curveball in average usage. His speeds are fairly standard and nothing to get too excited about. Even with all the fastballs, his average number of home runs given up has remained at about 1/9 IP, which is about what you’ll normally see. He’s not a strikeout pitcher, as you might guess, and has a K/BB ratio of 1.50. His walk rate is the real problem, as it lingers from 3.5-4/9 IP for most of his career. When you only strikeout 5.5/9 IP, it’s hard to be a very productive pitcher.
So, why sign him? Well, it’s hard to really think the Royals will depend on Miner for any kind of productive pitching at the major league level. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him in the bullpen at some point based on how the last few years have gone. However, it is a minor league deal and it’s most likely that Miner will hang out in Omaha for the majority or all of the season.
Look at that any way you want, but I would venture a guess that Miner is looked at as both shoring up the Omaha roster and providing insurance for the major league staff. There is a bevy of young arms that will be in Omaha and battling for a major league spot in Spring Training, so I doubt the Royals will really need Miner’s presence. It’s useful to have someone like him as insurance against injuries or blatant misfires when it comes to promoting relievers. Dayton could even see Miner as a sort of mentor figure for the likes of Coleman, Hardy, Jeffries, Collins, etc. I’m less sure about that, but it’s possible.
Like minor league signings go, you can’t be too upset about this one. The worst case scenario is that he pitches in Kansas City and is the combined terror of Jesse Chavez and Luis Mendoza. The best case scenario is that he’s Bruce Chen version 2.0. Either way, I can’t imagine Miner has too much of an influence this year.