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Atlanta Braves Top 30 Prospects: No. 4, Mike Minor

4. Mike Minor, LHP
B/T: R/L 2011 Age: 24 Ht: 6'3" Wt: 210
2010: (AA)
15 GS, 87 IP, 4.03 ERA, 3.5 BB/9, 11.3 K/9, 0.8 HR/9
(AAA) 6 GS, 33.1 IP, 1.89 ERA, 12 BB, 37 K, 1 HR
(MLB) 9 G, 8 GS, 40.2 IP, 5.98 ERA, 11 BB, 43 K, 6 HR

Mike Minor was selected by the Braves in the first round (seventh overall) in 2009 out of Vanderbilt, and he signed for a team record $2.42 million bonus. Many considered the pick to be too conservative for the placement, and the money too high for such a player. Minor's 2010 season silenced much of that talk.

Minor began his first full season in AA Mississippi, where he put together a 3.16 FIP and surprising 11.3 K/9. After 87 innings, he earned the promotion to AAA Gwinnett, where he continued his onslaught on minor league hitting, recording a 2.45 FIP and 10 K/9 in 40.2 innings.

By the end of the season, he was promoted to the majors, where he fought through 40 tough innings. He was worn down and had arm fatigue, which is natural for a pitcher in his first full pro season. It's not often a pitcher is in the majors by the end of his first full season, and it's probably not the best idea for this reason, but the Braves had no other choice after Kris Medlen went down with the elbow injury. Minor still showed some positives, including 43 strikeouts and only 11 walks.

Minor had the baseball world buzzing after displaying an increase in velocity and strikeouts in 2010. This was the concern following the draft, as he had nothing in his arsenal that screamed punch out ability. But his fastball was now touching mid-90s and his strikeout rates were consistently over 10, making him a new prospect. This certainly helped accelerate his trip through the minors.

Minor features a fastball in the low-90s that can touch 95 with movement, a plus changeup and good curve. The changeup is his go-to pitch, and it is the best in the system when he has a feel for it. The curve is still a work in progress, but it is considered a major league average pitch that should continue to develop and give batters something else to think about.

The fifth spot in the rotation is Minor's to lose. The only pitcher in his rearview mirror is Brandon Beachy. If his velocity and strikeout numbers are not flukes, and he continues to see improvement in his curve, he will stick in the rotation for good. He has #2 potential, but right now I see him as a mid-rotation starter.

Three Things to Look For in 2011: 1) Strikeouts 2) Velocity 3) Curveball
Destination in 2011: MLB
Ceiling: #2 Starter
My Prediction: #3 Starter

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.