Mike Minor: 2011 NL SP for $1 Review

In mid-March, I published an article espousing Braves starter Mike Minor as a good $1 option in your auction draft. I was a relatively big Minor fan and considered him an undervalued/sleeper breakout candidate. Then surprisingly, Brandon Beachy won the fifth spot in the rotation, something I thought Minor had pretty much already locked up. While Beachy ended up pitching very well and making the move look good, is Minor still worth watching?

Next year, the Braves will have an entertaining spring training as a ton of potentially exciting pitchers audition for the last spot in the rotation. This will include Minor, meaning that once again he may depart spring training without a rotation spot. This also means that he could very well be trade bait. That said, let us assume he will be a starting pitcher somewhere and focus on how he might perform.

Minor only ended up throwing 82.2 innings as he was shuttled back and forth between the minors and the big league club. In those innings, however, he was a slight disappointment, as he posted a 4.14 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. Of course, compared to his 2010 debut when he posted a ghastly 5.98 ERA, this year may be seen as a huge step forward. Digging deeper though, we find the culprit in 2010: a crazy high .379 BABIP, which also depressed his LOB% to just 65.4%.

The apparent bad luck reared its ugly head again in 2011 as his BABIP was once again at a ridiculous level, sitting at exactly .350. That was actually somewhat deserved as his LD% was 27.4%, nearly 33% higher than the league average rate. These inflated BABIPs have caused his ERAs to finish at drastically higher marks than his SIERA and xFIPs, which have sat within a respectable range between 3.43 and 3.65. Now having pitched 123.1 innings in the Majors, he sports an awful .359 BABIP, causing his career ERA to sit at more than a full run above his SIERA and xFIP.

Moving past the luck metrics, he has shown pretty good skills in the Majors, and even better in the minors. He has struck out nearly a batter per inning, though no doubt that has been inflated a bit by the high BABIP, while displaying pretty good control. Some additional ground balls would be nice to see, but his strikeout and walk rates are good enough that the grounders aren’t as crucial. His SwStk% dropped to just 8.1% in 2011, which was actually below the league average of 8.6%, and a decline from 2010’s 11.3% mark. His F-Strike% jumped at least, to a very strong 64%, confirming his excellent control.

The bottom line on Minor is that he has shown pretty good skills that have carried over well from the minors, but the BABIP bug has bitten him hard. It seems much too early to claim he is a true talent high-BABIPer, so you have to expect that to come down to the league average next season. His overall value will obviously depend a lot on whether he has a rotation spot coming out of spring training, and what team that spot is even with. He could very well turn a nice profit for NL-Only leaguers and I still believe he could generate some mixed league value as well.

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

11 Responses to “Mike Minor: 2011 NL SP for $1 Review”

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  1. Brad Johnson says:

    The problem for Minor in 2012 is figuring out where he’ll get innings. Hudson, Jurrjens, and Hanson obviously command 3 rotation spots if healthy and Lowe could potentially compete for a fourth. Then there is Beachy, Teheran, and Medlen who are all arguably ahead of Minor on the depth chart.

    My guess is that Minor will have a very brief window to snatch a rotation spot. I get the sense that the Braves would like to use Beachy as their fourth starter and hold open competition for the fifth spot. Teheran could probably use another quarter/half season working in the minors and Medlen might need some time to full recover from TJS. If Minor can hit the ground running out of the gate, he should be able to cling to the job, other wise, that pair or Lowe will likely leapfrog him.

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    • harpago17 says:

      I agree that Hudson, Hanson, and Jurrjens all have rotation spots, if healthy (and not traded). I think Beachy likely has a spot as well, based on this year’s performance. However, general manager Frank Wren was quoted in the local Atlanta paper a few days ago as saying that he didn’t see Derek Lowe as likely to have a rotation spot in 2012. To paraphrase what he said, ‘We have to put our best 5 pitchers out there, and the way things look like now we don’t project Derek to be one of those 5.’

      Obviously things can change, but as they currently stands it appears that Minor is competing with Teheran and Delgado for the 5th rotation spot, with Lowe on the outside looking in.

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      • Brad Johnson says:

        Clearly Lowe is a suboptimal choice for the rotation, but given the injury issues hanging over Jurrjens and Hanson’s heads, they probably ought to keep him around, especially if they have to pay over 2/3 of his contract to send him elsewhere.

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    • dutch says:

      Frank Wren has already said that he doesn’t see Lowe being in the 2012 rotation.

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      • The Rajah says:

        Wren will trade Lowe and $8-10MM just to get him off the roster. That will save the Braves $5-7MM and open a roster spot for someone who can actually get people out.

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    • Anon21 says:

      Doubt that Medlen is really in the mix for the rotation. Yes, they used him as a starter for a while in 2010, but the organization has generally treated him as a bullpen guy, a role in which he has excelled.

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  2. cs3 says:

    Beachy’s rotation spot is locked.
    The only question is what team it will be for.
    I would think he stays in Atlanta, but im wondering if the Braves would seriously consider trading him because he would bring back a much better player(s) in return than Lowe. Although Lowes contract (or part thereof) would obviously be nicer to move if someone would be so kind as to take him.

    On another note, what do you guys think of Pineda vs Beachy fantasywise for 2012?
    (Off topic I know, but this seems like as good a place as any to pose this question)

    Beachy had better FIP (3.19 vs 3.42), K%, SwStr%, and K/BB and also will have a better offense and bullpen backing him up.

    Their BB/9, FB%, and GB% were essentially equal.

    Beachy had .300 BABIP whiles Pinedas was a very low .258 so there may be regression there (as evidenced by their respective FIPs)

    Pineda allowed fewer hits/9 and was more efficient, throwing fewer pitches per inning.
    He also pitched ~25 more innings on the season so will likely be allowed to throw about 25 more than Beachy next season,
    However Pineda threw over 30% sliders and has some history of arm problems so that may be of some concern.

    So who do you guys like better as a keeper, assuming all else is equal?
    Who would you draft first in a redraft?

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    • Aaron says:

      Most of your listed pluses for Pineda are probably a function of low BABIP – hits/9 and fewer pitches per inning are definitely tied directly to BABIP so if you assume that he regresses then those “advantages” might go away. He plays in a pitcher friendly ballpark but Beachy is in the NL so that might be a wash. I guess I’d go with Beachy at this point. The fact that he came from out of nowhere might make them about equal if you think Beachy is due for more regression to his true talent level.

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    • JT Grace says:

      It would make a lot more sense for the Braves to trade Jurrjens than Beachy. Brandon will be cost controlled for five more years while JJ only has two years left. He is also a Boras client. They should get what they can get for JJ this winter. That leaves the rotation as Hudson, Hanson, Beachy, Medlen, and Minor. Lowe in the BP and emergency starter. Teheran and Delgado at AAA if needed.

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  3. SH says:

    @cs3 – Your argument regarding innings isn’t valid considering Beachy missed a month and a half due to an oblique injury which would have given him 5+ more starts. Those starts would have most likely resulted in more than 25 innings.

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    • cs3 says:

      Im not quite sure what you are arguing here.
      I wasnt saying that Pineda can inherently pitch more innings in a given year than Beachy as a result of of their respective skillsets…

      I know Beachy was hurt. (i owned him on every team i had)
      the point is, that specifically *because* he was hurt, he only pitched ~146 innings, and he did not really increase his workload from 2010
      so Beachy will once again be on an innings limit of around 175 innings next year…

      If Pineda is on any limit at all it will be ~200 innings. thats where I got the 25 inning difference.

      (also im not sure if i made i clear or not, but Pineda’s innings projection, and his slider usage, are 2 completely separate and distinct points)

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