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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.