Minor started 2010 in Mississippi with an eye on Atlanta for 2011 or 2012. It didn't exactly go that way, as Minor turned himself into a strikeout machine in AA, striking out 103 batters in 82 innings while walking 32 in 82 innings. That earned him a promotion to Gwinnett, where he continued to dazzle. Minor's strikeout rate dropped, but just by a little, as he struck out 37 in 33 1/3 innings. His walk rate remained relatively constant, with 12 runners reaching base via the free pass in Gwinnett. The big change to his game came with his homer rate. In Mississippi, Minor allowed 8 homers, while in Gwinnett, he only allowed 1. Minor earned himself to a promotion to Atlanta at the beginning of August, and he was...adequate. Fans will look at his 5.98 ERA and scream bloody murder, but Minor wasn't that bad: his FIP was only 3.77, which is more than serviceable for a rookie serving at the back of the rotation.
So why the huge disparity between Minor's ERA and FIP? Simple: home runs. Remember how I said he allowed 8 in Mississippi, and 1 in Gwinnett? So 9 homers allowed in 115 1/3 innings. In the majors, Minor allowed 6 homers in 40 2/3 innings. That is a DRAMATIC shift, and all but one of those homers came during September for Minor, a month where he was clearly running out of gas. There were some bright spots. Minor struck out 43 and only walked 11 during his stint in the majors, to post a fantastic K:BB ratio of 3.91. Only 4 starters in baseball had marks higher than that (Lee, Halladay, Haren, Weaver). Pretty good company, right? Even if you exclude his dominant 12 strikeout, 1 walk performance against the Cubs in his third major league start, his ratio is still better than 3.
In 2011, Minor will be battling Brandon Beachy for the fifth starter's spot in Atlanta. I think Minor has the inside track on the job right now, but a poor spring could easily give the nod to Beachy. The loser of that battle will likely earn a ticket back to Gwinnett, but I don't think Minor really has anything left to prove in AAA, despite only making 6 starts at the level. The Braves are in an enviable position right now, with a pair of young, qualified pitchers battling for the final slot in the rotation. The team is apparently not looking to deal Minor, so its looking more and more likely that he'll be the man to get the nod this March. The more I think about this situation, the more I think it's less about Minor, and more about Beachy. Beachy is the less heralded player, the one who has spent most of his career as a reliever. I'm not sure the team has really assessed what they have with him at this point, and whether his overall spot on the team will be in the rotation or the bullpen. The team will probably evaulate him in Gwinnett for the season, and almost by default, Minor will get the final slot in the rotation. But with Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado both moving through the system fast, someone is going to need to be moved to make room in the rotation. Derek Lowe comes off the books after 2012, but both of the young studs could be ready before he's gone. Could Minor be moved in the right deal? Its hard to tell at this point in time. 2011 is a really important year for Minor and the Braves. His future in Atlanta could depend on his performance.