Heading into 2010 Mike Minor (scheduled to make his Major League debut on Monday) was a highly touted pitching prospect, being selected in the first round of the 2009 draft (seventh overall).  The Braves decided to push the 22-year-old southpaw immediately, having him open the season at Double-A.

He pitched fairly well there, with a 4.03 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, but where he really excelled was generating swings and misses.  Over 87.0 innings he struck out 109 batters, a K/9 of 11.3.  For a starting pitcher that’s awfully impressive no matter what the level.

He’s not a hard thrower, though that doesn’t mean he can’t continue to generate strikeouts as he continues to progress.  In six starts at Triple-A he’s managed 37 Ks in 33.1 innings.  That’s a K/9 of 10.1.

Here’s a scouting report from Baseball America prior to the season:

“Minor’s repertoire consists of four pitches, with his plus changeup rating as his best offering. His fastball has excellent movement and sits in the upper 80s, and he is capable of increasing and reducing the velocity of the pitch to keep hitters off balance. Both his command and control are outstanding…”

It’s not always about velocity, but if he can change speeds and place his pitches where he wants to, there’s no reason to think that he can’t excel.  Of course, when Baseball America compares his repertoire to Jeremy Sowers, there are reasons to stop and think.  I don’t think he will be able to maintain a double-digit strikeout rate in the Major Leagues, though 8.0 or better could be a reality.

His control, which is supposed to be one of his strong suits, hasn’t been overly impressive this season.  In 120.1 total innings he’s walked 46 batters, a BB/9 of 3.5.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad number, but a lot of his success has clearly been tied to his strikeouts.

At Triple-A, where he has a 1.89 ERA, he’s sporting a BABIP of .242.  It’s an extremely small sample size, but it’s impossible to maintain that number.  On a Major League mound he’s likely to strikeout fewer batters and have less luck.  If he is to throw in a few more walks, as he faces more disciplined hitters who can lay off the changeup, the results could be dangerous.

That’s not to say that he can’t be successful, but there certainly are reasons to be concerned.  In keeper leagues the lefty is certainly worth stashing away because of what he can be now and beyond.  If his changeup really is as advertised, the results should be there.

However, control pitchers often take longer to develop.  It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him struggle, and to see his strikeouts fall as he adapts to the professional game.  That certainly makes him a huge risk to play immediately.

What are your thoughts on Minor?  Could he be usable or is he someone you’d avoid?

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