David Price isn’t the only former Vanderbilt making waves in professional baseball circles. His former teammate, Mike Minor, is coming up right behind him.
He started this season with Atlanta's Class AA affiliate in Mississippi and in late June the Braves promoted himto Class AAA Gwinnett. In his first start there, against Toledo, he gave up one run and had nine strikeouts in 7.2 innings.
As of Thursday, he had a 3-1 record, a 2.55 ERA and 27 strikeouts (against just eight walks) in 24.2 innings and had people wondering when how soon he might get his next promotion -- to the Major Leagues.
“That’s their [the Braves] call, I’m just going to keep working hard,” he said. “If they need me, they need me. If not, I’m going to improve and get ready for next year. I think I can compete there [in MLB] definitely but I need a little more time in AAA to get some more innings, get my first year down. I’ve still only had four starts.”
Success since he made the jump from AA has not been as easy as his stats might suggest. He said his fastball and change-up have not worked as well in AAA and that he needed to continue to develop his breaking ball.
“The strikeouts come harder," he said. "Guys are bigger and stronger and get the bat around. I usually go in [inside the strike zone] with two strikes, and guys here have been getting a bat on it.”
A 3-2 loss against the Louisville Bats on July 24 was a reminder of how big the challenge can be.
“A lot of my stuff didn’t fool them, they got their bats on the ball,” he said. “I went in and out, tried to mix up my stuff and they still found a way to make contact.”
Minor was considered one of -- if not the -- the best left-handed pitchers in the 2009 draft. The Braves selected him seventh overall and made things official with a contract August 6 of that year. He received a $2.42 million signing bonus, the largest draft pick bonus in Braves' history (eclipsing Jeff Francouer’s $2.2 million in 2002).
That came after three seasons with the Commodores in which he went 22-10 and recorded 303 strikeouts. In 2008 he added to his reputation as a pro prospect when he went 3-0, with a 0.75 ERA for an undefeated USA National Team. He threw 9.2 shutout innings in the gold medal game of The International University Sports Federation Championship against Japan.
Prior to Vanderbilt, he maintained a silly 0.08 ERA his senior year at Forrest High School in Chapel Hill. That convinced the Tampa Bay Rays to draft him in the 13th round in 2006, but he opted to go to college instead.
Minor shares an agent with his former teammate, and current toast of the Major League, the aforementioned Price. However, despite their time together, Minor is independently carving his own spot in baseball. He notes that he and Price rarely talk about being a touted, young professional pitcher. In fact, Minor tends to let the business aspect of the game take care of itself.
“We [Price and Minor] keep in touch a little bit, we talked over the All Star break,” Minor said. “He hasn’t really called much. I don’t really have many questions, I just kind of ask the guys here. I’m not really worried about a lot of things, I just sort of go along with my day.”
One group he does maintain consistent contact with is his friends and family. He lives in Nashville during the offseason but still makes sure to communicate with his old stomping grounds.
“I keep in touch with all my good friends,” he said. “Most go to MTSU and I talk to them at least once a week. There’s still al lot of fans that call and text me, asking for tickets and stuff.”
Minor says that a call-up to the Majors would be the “best case scenario” for the end of his season in Gwinnett. But he is realistic and patient with his progression. He wants to improve Braves' top farm team win a few games.
“I’ve learned to trust myself,” he said. “The game is the same. Nothing’s changed but the guy you face.”