You just can’t oversell Mike Minor. In addition to being an outstanding product of that fine private university up Nashville way; in addition to providing the Braves with a “true #1” anchor to their rotation; in addition to making all the young girls swoon; Minor also provides endless hours of Keith Law punching.

“Roy Clark is tied up in a closet in Atlanta’s offices.” (Draft Day, 2009)

It’s just so easy…

“Jeff (Detroit)
I’ve read the Braves are dangling Mike Minor as a potential trade chip in a deadline deal. What is his ceiling? Thanks.
Klaw (1:14 PM)

I certainly would — he’s outperforming expectations and showing unusually high velocity. Even if you liked Minor coming into the year, in the back of your mind there must be a small “sell high” sentiment. He’s not as good as their top 3 guys (including Vizcaino, if healthy) anyway, so it wouldn’t make a terrible dent in their pitching inventory.”

Of course Law was hardly the only person crapping on the Minor pick.

Kevin Goldstein (3:01:50 PM PT): Jonathan (Orlando): As a Braves I am freaked out that we are actually talked about Minor. Why?? Even if we have to stick to slot, wouldn’t Borchering or Chad James be better?

KG: Yes, and yes. It’s a horrible pick FOR ME, but I think early picks should be all about upside. Minor has a better shot of reaching that big leagues than anyone other than Strasburg in this thing, but his ceiling is a four starter.

Even Baseball America was getting in on the act.

Minor could be the third lefthander drafted in the first round out of Vanderbilt in the last six years, and he’s more Jeremy Sowers than David Price.

To be honest, there was quite a bit of gnashing of teeth and caterwauling in these very corridors when the Braves picked Minor #7 overall in 2009. So while it’s so very, very easy to reduce Minor’s preseason write up internet-stat-scouty-knowitall bashing snark, that wouldn’t be fair. First, it wouldn’t be fair to the prototype of such things, dear old KLaw. Contrary to his apparent nature, he actually admitted he was wrong earlier this year.

“He’s really, really good. Top 15 in NL. RT @willash22: @keithlaw Thoughts on Mike Minor?”

But more importantly, reducing Mike Minor’s progress as a pitcher to mere snark against his detractors would be a disservice to Mike Minor, as well as the organization that drafted and developed him. And that would be wrong.

Mike Minor is good. He is very good. He sometimes gets lost in the weeds of all of the young talent the Braves have shipped into the majors this decade. He doesn’t have the splatter-pattern wow-factor of Craig Kimbrel. He doesn’t have the near unlimited everyday upside of Jason Heyward. He’s not an unknowable alien force rewriting the very concept of defense at short. He didn’t hug himself right into a giant contract extension. Hell, he often gets overshadowed in his own rotation — and make no mistake, post Huddy, this rotation belongs to Mike Minor — by the guy with the higher “upside” on his fastball and the propensity to plunk Bryce Harper in the ass. And that sucks. Because Mike Minor. He is good. Very, very good.

While you don’t want to saddle a guy with undue and unreasonable expectations, when I watch the guy pitch, always with the internet-scout freakout over his drafting in the back of my head, I always go back to Tom Glavine and Baseball Prospectus.

Remains the Atlanta starter most likely to “go Mulholland.” Fair or not, much of Glavine’s success has come from exploiting umpires who call pitches six inches outside “strikes.” The day that pitch becomes a ball again, Glavine loses a big chunk of his value. Not only will he then have to get hitters out in a conventional fashion, but he’ll have to unlearn on the fly a way of pitching he’s grown accustomed to

That’s Joe Sheehan writing in the 1998 Prospectus. Again, to his credit, he wrote a mea culpa about that comment, though it took him until 2007 to do it. Mike Minor is a crafty lefty with limited “stuff,” a head full of know-how, guts and determination, and the much poo-pooed “pitchability” of a star. Is he going to win 300+ games and go to Cooperstown? Probably not. But yeah, when I think “Mike Minor,” I think “Tom Glavine.”

Mike Minor is the Braves #1 starter going into 2014. Kris Medlen has more experience, but then the same could have been said for Pete Smith. Julio Teheran has a bigger fastball and more upside. Kind of like John Smoltz. Alex Wood is lefty with a funny motion that begs the question of durability, and can barely drink legally. Sort of Steve Avery-esque. Mike Minor? Mike Minor is the workhorse ace of this staff. Like Tom Glavine. And barring the acquisition of some Greg Maddux metaphor, he’s going to be the staff leader for a long time.

In his 25 year old season Tom Glavine made the leap from league average guy with potential to winning the Cy Young. His ERA+ trend for his 23-25 year old seasons was 98, 94, 158. In his 25 year old season Mike Minor made the leap from a league average guy with potential to, as Law says above, one of the 15 best pitchers in the league. His ERA+ trend for his 23-25 year old season: 93, 97, 120. It would be silly to predict a 150 ERA+ and a CYA for Minor this year. (Hell, at the heart of the matter, it’s silly to predict *anything* about pitching.) And to be clear, Mike Minor doesn’t have the pedigree of Glavine, who debuted as a 21 year old and was a top prospect in both baseball and hockey. But it’s close enough to mark the similarity.

Barring injury, here’s my prediction: Mike Minor is about to become a name brand product across MLB. He’s about to break out of being a star for Braves fans and become a name for pretty much everyone. Look for him to maintain his increased K/BB ratio, pair it with another year of experience, and take ownership of the Braves’ rotation. Given health and standard path development, look for an ERA+ of 130 to 135.

Give him a few bounces and some good fortune, and that 158 Glavine posted in 1991 isn’t out of the question. And if you paired that with a little offensive support and outsized win totals? Sure, he could compete for a Cy. That latter bit is mostly fanboy wishcasting, I admit, but I see no reason whatsoever Minor will not hit 130 or so, and backed up with the recently extended Teheran, Medlen and Beachy, a young, powerful offense, and an Andrelton-led defense, that should get the Braves back to the playoffs. And that’s all you can ask.

(Can the Braves win in the playoffs with Minor as their ace? Of course they can. The only game they won last year was the one Minor started. Ignoring the silliness of “pitcher wins” for the moment, the Braves will be as fine with Minor as their #1 in the playoffs as they were with Glavine as their #1 in 1991-92. Which is to say, fantastic, if the offense shows up and the rest of the rotation manages to get better than they were last year. Tom Glavine, barring an outlier game here or there in his dotage, was fantastic in the playoffs.)

So yeah. Mike Minor was a bad draft. He was taken too early. He was taken due to “signability.” He doesn’t have a big arm. He won’t be anything more than a #3 or #4 in the bigs. It’s the Mike Minors of the world — their ability to identify them, draft them, sign them and develop them — that makes the Braves better than 95% of the management offices in baseball. Raise a glass to Mike Minor. He’s worth it. He’s the reason you don’t need to trade for David Price. He’s the one you keep.