Nobody would ever suggest the Braves don’t know what they’re doing — on second thought, that’s pretty much all anybody ever suggests on the ol’ blog — but taking Mike Minor with the seventh pick in Round 1 seemed, shall we say, unusual.
He’s a college pitcher. The Braves tend to prefer high school pitchers. (Fewer innings in the arm.) And it’s not as if Minor was considered the class of this college class. Indeed, Baseball America had him ranked a “second-round talent” and the 10th-best lefthander available in its pre-draft issue.
Baseball America’s capsule: “Minor could be the third lefthander drafted out of Vanderbilt in the past six years, and he’s more Jeremy Sowers [who's 13-22 with the Cleveland Indians] than David Price [the Tampa Bay phenom]. Like Sowers, Minor has more pitchability than stuff, with a fastball in the 86-89 mph range and a plus changeup that grades as his best pitch. His other strongest attribute could be his pickoff move … Minor’s success could depend on his breaking stuff … Minor will be all over draft boards in June and could go anywhere from the first half of the first round to the back half of the second.”
Here was Jim Callis, the Baseball America writer who tabbed Minor as the Braves’ No. 1 pick in his mock draft: “[He] doesn’t have as high an upside as some others.”
From John Manuel of Baseball America (link requires registration): “It’s an out-of-character pick for Atlanta in many ways, but the Braves believe in Minor, the 2008 Summer College Player of the Year. The Braves like the fact that Minor improved down the stretch when he took over the duties of calling his own pitches, and his cerebral approach should help him move quickly. Scouts who doubt Minor believe his stuff has flattened out the last year or so and believe he’s a fourth starter at best, with only plus pitchability and no true out pitch.”
Keith Law of ESPN.com’s Scouts Inc. had Minor rated the draft’s 38th-best prospect. (Requires registration.) And let’s note that he went No. 7, which was the highest pick the Braves have had since 1991, when they took the center fielder Mike Kelly at No. 2.
And here, as reported by esteemed colleague Carroll Rogers, was scouting director Roy Clark’s rationale for taking Minor: “He was the ace of the USA Baseball national team last year that had a number of pretty good pitchers, including Mr. [Stephen] Strasburg [the No. 1 overall pick]. This guy is a winner. I was hoping we’d have an opportunity to select him. Now, I’m hoping we have an opportunity to sign him.”
A stipulation: The Braves do a nice job scouting and developing talent. Their track record tells us so. Another stipulation: Zack Wheeler of East Paulding, considered the apple of the Braves’ eye, was taken sixth overall by San Francisco. That said, Minor was still an odd choice.
John Schuerholz arrived from Kansas City in October 1990. In the 19 drafts since, only twice have the Braves made a collegian their first selection. The aforementioned Kelly, of Arizona State, was one. Joey Devine, the reliever who exited North Carolina State in 2005, was the other, and the Braves made a hash of his development. Not the most heartening precedents, would you say?