Should the KC Royals move this starter to the pen?
Six years have passed since the KC Royals rescued Mike Minor, a promising starter who won 24 games for the Atlanta Braves from 2012-2013 but began suffering left shoulder problems during a disappointing (6-12) 2014 season.
Unfortunately, the shoulder issues continued, robbed Minor of his entire 2015 season and forced him into surgery. He became a free agent after the campaign.
The Royals took the same chance they’ve taken with so many other hurlers looking for a place to rebuild—they signed the lefty for two years in February 2016, which allowed him to spend his first campaign with the club rehabilitating his shoulder in the minors. The thought was, of course, that he’d join the rotation for the 2017 campaign.
But that’s not what happened. Minor didn’t get a start all season. Instead, the Royals put him in the bullpen Opening Day and that’s where he stayed.
The move was, in hindsight, brilliant. Relieving fit Minor like a finely-tailored suit.
The new Royal pitched 65 times and posted the best ERA of his career, a sparkling 2.55 that was second in the pen only to Scott Alexander’s 2.48. Minor went 6-6 with six saves and struck out 88 in 77.2 innings for the second-highest SO9 (10.2) of his career. And his 2.5 BB9 was consistent with the decent control he’s had throughout his 10-year big league tenure.
Minor left for free agency and the Rangers after the season, and won 26 games for Texas before the club traded him to Oakland in 2020. He returned to Kansas City on a two-season contract last winter. And although he was the workhorse Kansas City expected him to be with 28 starts and 158.2 innings and tied Brad Keller for the most wins (eight) on the club, he also tied Keller for the most losses (12) and posted an unsightly 5.05 ERA.
His discouraging 2021 performance notwithstanding, and unless the club trades him when the MLB lockout ends, Minor will likely be in the rotation when the 2022 campaign starts.
But is there a better way to deploy him?
The KC Royals might want to move Mike Minor to the bullpen this season.
Kansas City’s pitching staff is not, to say the least, without its problems. The rotation can be rocky and the bullpen isn’t as deep as it needs to be.
Minor may be a better solution to the latter issue than to the former.
At 34, he’s a savvy competitor capable of pitching a lot of innings. The one season he pitched in relief proved he can be a key bullpen piece, and his good control (2.6 career BB9) means he doesn’t pose significant risk of putting runners on in high leverage relief situations. His years of starting suggest he’s more than capable of filling long and middle relief roles. And he could spot start and open if necessary.
And the bullpen could use him.
Mike Minor in the Kansas City bullpen? It’s an interesting idea.