If A.J. Minter merely replicated his performance from the year previous — 61.1 IP, 57 H, 22 BB, 69 K, 3.23 ERA, 2.72 FIP — some might have been disappointed, then the 2019 Atlanta Braves Player Review on A.J. Minter would have been all roses. After all, A.J. Minter has been hyped about as much as any relief prospect the Braves have had this century. So it wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that Minter’s 2019 season was a complete disaster.
Of course it was. After having all of the promise of a future shutdown closer and ace reliever, Minter took a huge step backwards last year. In 29.1 major league IP, he gave up 36 hits, 23 walks, 23 earned runs, and 35 strike outs. That contributed to a 7.06 ERA and a trip to AAA. He got his act together a little bit in AAA, pitching another 22.2 innings and severely cutting down on his walks. After walking 7.1 per 9 in Atlanta, his 1.2 walks per 9 with Gwinnett gives some optimism for the future.
What Went Wrong?
Looking under the hood, it’s hard to see exactly where things went so wrong. His fastball, cutter, and changeup velocities were nearly the same as they were in 2018. Someone can correct me as I’m not an expert on the subject, but it doesn’t seem like the movement on his pitches suffered greatly. It just seems like he lost the ability to command the strike zone, perhaps completely all mental. His walk rate got out of control, and he was catching way more of the plate than you would have liked to see. At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t matter as Minter was terrible, and he’s largely worked his way out of the team’s plans.
Unlike in 2019 where they went into the season relying on an injury-prone reliever like Arodys Vizcaino and an inconsistent one like A.J. Minter, the Braves will go into the 2020 season with much more certainty in the back of their bullpen. Mark Melancon, Will Smith, Shane Greene, Chris Martin, and Darren O’Day will be way ahead of Minter in the pecking order. Sean Newcomb and Luke Jackson will also be ahead of him. Shoot, even Grant Dayton is a lefty that’s probably ahead of Minter. But that’s great for Minter. I suspect he’ll be given every opportunity to earn a job out of Spring Training, and if he does, he’ll get work in low leverage situations until he can demonstrate that he can be trusted. And being a cost-controlled player for the next several years, he can mean a lot to the Braves’ bullpen, especially considering how much money is tied up in him.
But the Braves won’t wait around forever, so I think he could be a DFA candidate as early as mid-season, and certainly a non-tender candidate next offseason. For his sake and ours, hopefully the 2019 season is a blip, and he’s back to being a potential back-of-the-pen piece.
Thanks for reading!
In case you missed it, here’s yesterday’s piece on Charlie Culberson who just so happened to re-sign with the Braves after being DFA’s.