Just a few seasons ago, you wouldn’t have been a fool to think that Mike Minor’s major league career was over. After struggling with injuries with the Braves, he left for a free agent deal with the Royals, where he was subsequently lit up in his return to the mound while rehabbing in the minors. Follow that up with another injury that officially sidelined him for the 2016 season and things were not looking pretty. Minor had to fight the following Spring Training to make the Royals roster as a reliever. From that point, it’s all been up for him.
Minor’s impressive season in relief, combined with one of the more high-spin fastballs in the game, earned him a three-year deal with the Rangers. The plan was to give him another look in the rotation. Early on, things were up and down for him in his return to starting, making a return to the bullpen look more and more likely. But then he found his groove in the second half, thanks to improvements on both his four-seamer, and more notably, his changeup. I wrote about his strides back in February, questioning if we had still yet to see the best version of Minor.
“Now we know that Minor found success in getting weak contact with his primary fastball and strikeouts with a secondary changeup in the second half. Put this together, and we have the recipe for a much improved pitcher. Based off xwOBA standards, he was a borderline back-end starter, ranking in the bottom 20 percent for the metric in the first half. In the second half though, he ranked in the top 20 percent with only 17 pitchers with same or equal results posting a better xwOBA.
With injuries hampering Mike Minor in the past, health seems like the biggest threat to his chance at even better success in 2019. If he can sustain the added velocity and spin rate in his fastball and continue to net strikeouts with his changeup like he did in the second half, all while staying healthy, there’s a legit chance his best still lies in the future.”
So far, his improvements have all carried over to the 2019 season and then some. He earned his first All-Star appearance thanks to a 2.54 ERA in 117 innings pitched, a mark exceeded by only six pitchers this season. Among all American League players this season, only Mike Trout has a higher bWAR than him (not terrible company).
About a month ago, fellow BTBS writer Steven Martano wrote about the fantastic season Minor was in the midst of.
“2019 has been an opportunity for Minor to demonstrate that 2018 was not a fluke. In 89 ⅓ innings so far this season, Minor has posted a 2.52 ERA, earning his an ERA+ of 195 (or if you prefer, an ERA- of 52). His strikeout rate is hovering around 25 percent, which is considerably higher than his career 21.8 percent. He’s averaging a near-.300 BABIP-against, which is right in-line with what we would expect from a league average standpoint, and though his walk rate is a tick higher than last year, 7.7 percent is still at league-average.”
As for Minor’s relevance this trade deadline, it seems to be low at the moment. The Rangers currently sit at 48-42, trailing the second American League Wild Card spot by only three games. With them being a few games within a playoff spot, trading one of their better players that’s controlled past the season seems extremely unlikely, barring a major collapse over the next few weeks.
One of the bigger contributors to the reason that Mike Minor might not be available might be... Mike Minor. His performance has easily been worth a few wins to the Rangers this season, giving them an extra push in a race towards the playoffs. For now, it seems like he’ll help headline a playoff push.