KC Royals: Why Mike Minor has become a major force

(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) /

Thursday’s game against the Oakland A’s was one of Mike Minor’s finest performances for the KC Royals this year. He struck out eight batters, and gave up only three hits, one walk and a run, and tossed 106 pitches in seven innings.

Minor’s quality start allowed Scott Barlow and Greg Holland to close out the eighth and ninth innings to give the Royals a much-needed victory and an end to their five-game losing skid.

Though his 4.50 ERA needs some work, Minor has been a major force for Kansas City. Now 5-3, he leads the Royals’ regular starters with a .625 winning percentage, 81 strikeouts, and a 1.149 WHIP. (Danny Duffy has a 1.28 WHIP, but is injured and hasn’t pitched in almost a month).

How was Minor doing as a pitcher before rejoining the KC Royals this season?

Minor began his big league career in Atlanta, where he pitched from 2010-2014. He was a decent starter with a 4.10 ERA, 566 strikeouts, and a 1.266 WHIP in 652.2 innings. After missing the 2015 season with a torn labrum and corrective surgery, Minor wasn’t tendered a contract but signed with Kansas City, where he spent the entire year 2016 campaign on the disabled list.

As a result of his injury, the Royals decided Minor would pitch out of the bullpen, with former manager Ned Yost hoping that would increase his pitcher’s velocity. Minor, on the other hand, wasn’t so sure about the potential increase, telling Jeffrey Flanagan, then mlb.com’s Royals beat writer:

"“I’ve never been a bullpen guy so I don’t know if that will happen. But I do remember even last year my velocity would be higher the first two innings or so. I don’t know if it will be consistently like that but we’re hopeful.”"

Little did Minor know that a bullpen role would remedy him. In 77.2 innings, he had a 2.55 ERA, 88 strikeouts, and a 1.017 WHIP. He held opponents to a .201 average, and his fastball reached 94.8 mph, a vast increase from when he last pitched in 2014 with the Braves.

After his comeback 2017 season, Minor signed with the Texas Rangers in 2018 and spent time with them and the A’s in 2020. Though his fastball dipped back down to 92 mph as a starter during that span, he did record a 4.07 ERA, 394 strikeouts, and a 1.194 WHIP in 422 innings pitched. In 2019, Minor made the American League All-Star team and struck out 200 batters.

Mike Minor is proving to be a valuable force in the KC Royals’ rotation.

Minor rejoined the Royals this year on a two-year, $18 million deal which includes a $13 million option for 2023 and a $1 million buyout. So far, he’s proving his worth to the club.

Besides leading the KC Royals’ starters in winning percentage, strikeouts and WHIP, Minor has improved his strikeout percentage. According to FanGraphs, Minor’s K% is 26.6%, his best since his 28.7% during his first KC stint in 2017.

And the similarity between his good 2017 Kansas City numbers and this season’s don’t stop there.

This year, Minor’s K/9 is 9.85, his opponents’ average is .219, and he has a 18.7% K-BB%. These are his best numbers since that excellent 2017 campaign, when he posted a 10.2 K/9, .201 opponents’ average, and 21.5% K-BB% for the KC Royals.

And his current statistics reflect the quality of two of his last three starts.

Although Minnesota touched him for three homers and five runs June 5, Thursday’s effort against the A’s was stellar, and in beating the Pirates May 31 Minor struck out seven in six innings and allowed only a walk and two runs on five hits.

However, Minor needs to surrender fewer homers—he’s given up 12, the most on the club.

Featured on FanGraphs, the ZiPS projection system currently projects Minor will end 2020 with a 4.24 ERA, 146 strikeouts, 1.22 WHIP, and a 2.6 WAR, numbers quite similar to his 4.18 ERA, 132 strikeouts, and 1.121 WHIP in 2018 when he was the Rangers’ best pitcher.

That’s not to say Minor will be the best pitcher on the KC Royals’ staff, especially considering Danny Duffy’s probable return from the Injured List. What it does say about Minor is that he is a consistent workhorse who steadily gets the job done.

Next. What should the Royals do with this red-hot bat?. dark

Mike Minor is a major component of the KC Royals’ rotation this season.