Results tagged ‘ Mike Minor ’

Time for the Braves to experience a prolonged winning streak

When I arrived at my Pasadena hotel this afternoon, I clicked on MLB.com and had to laugh when I saw the image used to lead into the story about this weekend’s four-game series between the Yankees and Red Sox.
 
Standing in the middle of this image was John Smoltz, who while opposing Joba Chamberlain during tonight’s series opener, is going to have a chance to set the tone for what occurs over the next four days in the Bronx.
 
Nevertheless, it’s still quite odd to see Smoltz wearing that Red Sox uniform and suddently standing as one of the key figures in what is undoubtedly the game’s top rivalry.
 
Sure, you have the Cubs-Cardinals and the Dodgers-Giants.  The Interleague era has obviously allowed intrigue to follow some of the matchups between the Mets-Yankees.   But nothing beats the anticipation of what precedes those four-hour, epic affairs the Yankees and Red Sox are seemingly destined to encounter every time they oppose each other. 

With the Dodgers having to travel to San Francisco on Monday to begin a three-game series against the second-place Giants, can the Braves hope that Manny Ramirez and his mates will look beyond this weekend’s four-game series at Dodger Stadium?  Or did I simply spend too much time reading college football magazines on this morning’s cross-country flight?

Seriously though, while the Dodgers still own the best record in the Majors, they are currently in the midst of their roughest stretch of the season.  They’ve lost eight of their last 13 games and unfortunately for the Braves, two of the five wins notched during that stretch occurred last weekend at Turner Field. 

While splitting their first 20 games since the All-Star break, the Dodgers have experienced the same rollercoaster journey that has followed the Braves, who have won 16 of their past 26 games?   Or is it more timely to say that they’ve lost five of their past nine? 

Whichever way you want to view it, with 54 games left this season, the Braves can’t afford to experience any more extended stretches of mediocrity.  They’ll enter tonight’s series opener five games back in the Wild Card race with three teams in front of them (Giants, Rockies and the tied NL Central combo of the Cards/Cubs).  As for the Marlins, their 55-53 record is identical to Atlanta’s. 

The Braves have 13 games remaining against the Marlins and three against the Cardinals.   While they’re done playing the Giants and Rockies, they can hope that these two NL West rivals beat each other up in their remaining division contests.   The same line of thinking can be used when thinking about the Cubs and Cards, who are lining up produce a great battle to win the NL Central.

 There’s hope if the Braves win the games they’re supposed to against the likes of the Nationals and Padres.  But at the same time, they’ve put themselves in a position where they need to also find success against the game’s elite.

With pitching matchups of Derek Lowe vs. Randy Wolf, Jair Jurrjens vs. Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw vs. Kenshin Kawakami and Javier Vazquez vs. Hiroki Kuroda, the Braves certainly have a chance to win at least three of the four games played this weekend. 

Lowe beat Wolf last weekend.  Jurrjens pitched effectively before experiencing his forgettable two-out struggles during last Sunday’s loss to Billingsley.  I’ll take Vazquez against most any other Major League pitcher right now. 

And once again, we’re looking at Kawakami’s start as the one that draws doubt.    The Braves have lost each of the past four games started by the 34-year-old Japanese right-hander.  Those four losses account for half of the total they’ve compiled in 20 games since the All-Star break. 

Minor’s bonus:  As I write this Mike Minor is likely dotting the “i’s” and crossing the “t’s” to secure the $2.42 million signing bonus the Braves have offered him.    This is the highest bonus ever given to a player selected seventh in the Draft and the largest one in the organization’s history.
 
But at the same time, it’s a cost the Braves knew they were going to incur while provided their highest Draft selection since 1990.
 
While it would have been nice to get Minor into the system as early as possible, the fact that he was able to rest his left arm most of this summer could also prove to be beneficial.  The 21-year-old southpaw completed 110 2/3 innings for Vanderbilt this year and spent last summer pitching for Team USA.
 
If Minor proves to be a quick climber, there’s a chance he could move into the back end of the Braves rotation some time during the 2011 season.   Lowe will be in the final year of his contract and if they follow their current path, Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson will form a formidable 1-2 punch at the front-end of the rotation.  

Braves select Mike Minor

As soon as it became obvious that the Giants were going to take Zack Wheeler, there was little doubt that the Braves were going to grab Mike Minor with the seventh overall selection in this year’s First-Year Player Draft.

In fact after selecting Minor, Braves director of scouting Roy Clark provided every indication that he was always the pitcher that they truly wanted. 

“I’m very pleased with the guy that we got and I know that the baseball world thought that we were taking Zack Wheeler,” Clark said.  “But we’re very pleased with the guy we got.”  <p>

While going 6-6 with a 3.90 ERA during his recently-completed junior season at Vanderbilt University , Minor didn’t necessarily produce eye-opening stats.  But Clark said the 21-year-old left-hander flourished after he was allowed to call his own pitches. 

Given the opportunity to do the same with Team USA last year, Minor went 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA.   After beating the Cuban national team twice, Baseball America named him their summer player of the year. 

In other words he proved to be even more impressive than Stephen Strasburg, the heralded right-hander who is set to grab a record bonus after being selected by the Nationals with Tuesday’s first overall selection.

“There were some pretty good players on that team and I know one of them throws 100 miles per hour, but this guy is a winner,” Clark said.  “We’ve been tracking him for a long time.  We were hoping for the opportunity to select him and now I’m just hoping for the opportunity to sign him.”   

Minor, who is being advised by Bo McKinnis (one of the good guys in the agent business), will find himself entering the negotiating game.  Teams have until Aug. 17 to sign the players selected in this year’s Draft.

  

Will it be Minor or White?

When I called B.B. Abbott this morning, I jokingly asked him if his Draft party was going to be similar to the ones that Drew Rosenhaus throws for his top prospective NFL clients.

Before he could even provide an answer, he received another call from a scout and provided every indication that he’s among the many agents, who are going to be swamped today while fielding calls from clubs that are investigating the signability of the players they’re advising. 

Based on what I’ve seen from the video that MLB.com has provided, it’s a shame that the Braves likely won’t have the opportunity to grab Zach Wheeler, the lanky right-hander from suburban Atlanta’s East Paulding High School. 

Instead while serving as Wheeler’s advisor, Abbott is likely to find himself negotiating a bonus with either the Orioles or Giants, who are selecting directly in front of the Braves, who will be making the seventh overall pick tonight. 

If Wheeler is gone, the Braves could grab the University of North Carolina’s Alex White, a 6-foot-4 right-hander who some consider to be the second-best collegiate pitching prospect behind Stephen Strasburg.

But within his final Mock Draft, MLB.com’s Draft guru, Jonathan Mayo predicts that Braves director of scouting Roy Clark will pass on taking a fellow Tar Heel and instead grab Mike Minor, a left-hander from Vanderbilt University.

Take a look at these videos to make your own comparisons between Minor and White.

I’m going with what Mayo projects because as Clark said yesterday, “Jonathan really knows his stuff.”

While heading the Braves scouting department since 2000, Clark has gained a strong reputation as being one of the game’s top talent evaluators. 

With his contract expiring at the end of this year, the Braves will need to do whatever possibile to keep him and consequently prolong the link to Paul Snyder, the great scout who was instrumental to the rebirth of their organization during the late 1980s.

While doing some research on Garret Anderson last week, I learned that that Angels took him with the 125th overall selection in the 1990 First-Year Player Draft.  With their fourth-round selection coming 22 picks earlier, the Braves grabbed an outfielder named Johnny Walker. 

This leads me to wonder if Clark and his staff started sipping some Johnnie Walker after grabbing Chipper Jones with the first overall pick that year. 

Speaking of Jones, the dude is currently on fire.  When he singled in the fifth inning last night, it marked the eighth consecutive plate appearance during which he reached safely.  It also made him 6-for-6 since encountering that dizzy spell on Saturday night.

Last week, Jones said that the summer would make Turner Field more suitable to the Braves offense and once again his words have proven prophetic.  Since totaling eight homers during their first 22 home games, the Braves have hit 10 homers during their past seven game at The Ted. 

It was encouraging  to see Kris Medlen allow just one hit over three scoreless innings and notch the win last night.  It seems like the rookie hurler has overcome those nerves that marred his first two career starts and he now finds himself in a position where he could prove to be a key reliever during the rest of this season.

When we’ve talked about making trades that take advantage of a particular area of strength, we’ve been referencing moves like the Pirates made last week when they dealt Nate McClouth to the Braves with the confidence that Andrew McCutchen would be capable of handling their center field duties.

While recording two triples and finishing about 15 feet short of the homer he needed to record a cycle during Monday four-hit performance, McCutchen certainly had to calm the emotions of those Pirates fans who were furious last week when they learned that McLouth had been dealt.  

With his talent, McCutchen isn’t going to be one of those speed demons like Emilio Bonifacio, who energized the Marlins lineup for about a week before falling victim to Major League scouting reports.

Those same reports, which also played a part in Jordan Schafer’s struggles,  will soon start to affect McCutchen. But from what I saw last night and during Spring Training, my dad and friends might want to stop bashing the trade and simply enjoy the fact that they’ve still got a potential superstar in center field.     

Speaking of Schafer, he felt some discomfort in his left wrist during a swing on Friday night and was evaluated by a doctor on Monday.  I should have some more information tonight, when the Braves may also reveal the results of the MRI exam Brandon Jones underwent with the hope of finding out what is causing his left knee discomfort.   

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