I’m more qualified than the rest of you nimrods to discuss Mike Minor. In my former capacity as an amateur Braves blogger, I got to see quite a lot of him.
And aside from being injured nearly all the time, he was mostly mediocre as a starting pitcher.
Don’t get me wrong, Minor had his moments—a particular 10-strikeout game against the Mets in 2013 comes to mind. Mostly, he was frustrating for his ability to look pretty good for three games and absolutely terrible for two.
As a starting pitcher for most of four seasons with the Braves, he had one standout season. In 2013, where he went 13-9 with a 3.21 ERA and should’ve been deeper in the All-Star conversation. He also lost his last four decisions that season, so clearly all was not perfect.
Then everything went to hell.
During the 2013 offseason, Minor needed surgery for… umm… well, just read it. That put him behind going into the 2014 campaign, during which inflammation of his shoulder served to limit to less than 150 innings. The shoulder continued to bother him into the next campaign, wherein a torn labrum was revealed before he ever threw a pitch.
He missed two full seasons before the KC Royals…
…signed him for a song during the 2016 offseason after the Braves non-tendered him, let him rehab for the entirety of 2016 and then turned him loose in the bullpen this season.
In 24.2 innings, he’s got a 1.82 ERA and he’s striking out better than a batter an inning.
(How underrated has Minor been? The USA Today image database we can access here has NO action shots of him.)
It’s impossible to look at what Minor’s doing and not think of Andrew Miller. The dominant, durable southpaw ascended into the national consciousness last October as the multi-inning, multi-use ace of the Cleveland Indians bullpen. Like Minor, Miller was a high draft pick who never really panned out as a starter.
Unlike Minor, Miller’s circumstances had more to do with his early failures than injury. And Minor, with Miller forging ahead as a trailblazer, could save himself years of wandering if he converted into multi-inning relief now.
After debuting for the Tigers in 2006—less than three months after being drafted—he became the centerpiece in the Miguel Cabrera trade following the 2007 season. The Marlins tried for three seasons to outfit him as a starter—it did not go well (10-20, 5.89 ERA/4.49 FIP). At which point, the Marlins gave him away for nothing and the Red Sox non-tendered him in the 2010 offseason.
Re-signed by the Red Sox, he slowly gained steam as an effective bullpen arm, becoming trade bait at the 2014 deadline before getting shipped to Baltimore.
And since signing with the Yankees in 2015…
…as a 30-year old—he’s yet to have an ERA above 2.04 or a FIP higher than 2.16.
Minor is 29 right now. This is his time, not to become a shutdown closer or trade bait or anything else—if Ned Yost is worth his salt, he is absolutely turning Minor into his two-inning, gap-bridging, stud-reliever. He’s doing it yesterday, and he’s demanding that Matt Strahm take copious notes. If Ned (and I’m just gonna go on ahead and doubt the following) were smart, he’d be hoping to recreate lightning in the bottle with Strahm, Minor and Herrera; at worst, the latter two would become high-level trade chips.
(All—literally all of this—had been rolling around in my head long before Miller surrendered two earned runs to the KC Royals Friday night. I swear. And good heavens, I’m relying on a healthy Nathan Karns. Where are we right now?)
The case for Minor is pretty simple: like Miller, he has multiple pitches, he’s left-handed and he’s got plenty of experience going multiple innings. He’s an average starter at best and his value as a long-reliever in a KC Royals bullpen that has… had some problems (hello there 4.78 ERA, 4.14 FIP, league-high 4.42 BB/9) can’t be overstated.
Since he joined the KC Royals (and by extension, the bullpen), the case against Minor is non-existent. He’s been excellent, and he deserves an expanded role. Herrera needs someone to pick up the high-leverage work as a stopper. Minor has proven himself as deserving of the job.