Friday, February 24, 2012

Mike Minor is not Yunel Esobar

As you might have heard, yesterday, Mike Minor came out and said that if he's pitching well, he would rather be traded than sent back to the minors.  The immediate reaction was to draw up comparisons between this situation and the Yunel Escobar fiasco of 2010.

The trade of Escobar (and, of course, everyone's favorite pitcher, Jo-Jo Reyes) to the Toronto Blue Jays for Alex Gonzalez, Tyler Pastornicky, and Tim Collins was, both at the time and in retrospect, regrettable.  When it happened, Escobar's power stroke had seemingly evaporated completely.  He was a black hole offensively for the first two months of the season, and while he began to pick it up in June, it wasn't enough to counteract the real problem - he couldn't coexist with Bobby Cox.  To put it bluntly, Escobar had an "attitude," and his lack of hustle became intolerable to the organization when the talent wasn't there.

The Braves were left with Alex Gonzalez, an offensive black hole that Yunel only dreamed he could be.  (Gonzalez was in the midst of a "terrific" offensive season, so the trade was supported by the media, but everyone knew, deep down, that he couldn't keep it up for ever.  And he didn't.)  Sure, he had a glove, but Escobar was pretty good there, too.  It was a lopsided trade, and given the publicity of the Braves' dissatisfaction with Escobar, there was no way to get fair value in return.  Escobar has since matured, regained his stroke, likely become a top-10 (real life, not fantasy) shortstop, and been signed to a very team-friendly contract extension.  Pastornicky, a prospect in the trade, will be starting for the Braves on Opening Day this season, and if he turns out to be a league-average shortstop, most fans would probably be overcome with joy.

This brings us back to Minor.  It's an entirely different situation, really.  Minor has never been accused of slacking off, and his talent has always been there.  The issue has been all of the other talent clogging the rotation and preventing him from showcasing his own.  The opportunity is now there for Minor to seize, and barring a horrid performance in Spring Training, he should have the fifth spot in the rotation (and the fourth spot, while Tim Hudson is out).  Even if he doesn't get that spot, someone will get hurt (they always do) and he'll be back with the big-club in a jiffy.  In 15 major-league starts last season, Minor posted an 8.38 K/9 rate (compare to: Roy Halladay, Madison Bumgarner, C.J. Wilson) and a 3.27 BB/9 rate (...not as good, but not really a deal breaker), good for a 3.39 FIP that far outstrips his deceiving 4.14 ERA.  In the average case, Minor is a pretty damn good major-league starter this season with room to grow.  In the best case, which is not even that difficult to imagine, Minor is the Braves' best starter this season.

The most puzzling thing about this whole situation is why Minor actually said anything.  It's pretty obvious that if he's pitching well, he'd want a chance to stick in the majors.  He knows that he's being afforded every opportunity to have that chance.  Why risk creating tension with the manager, front office, and other players?  Hopefully, Minor pitches well and makes the most of his chance, and this storyline just fades away.  The kid's going to be a good pitcher, but it wouldn't hurt him to be a good diplomat, too.

1 comment:

  1. I really like this post.

    On a related note, I understand the value of 'pitching depth' but I think that there are obvious offensive holes that could be addressed with some of that depth. I wish they addressed them.