The Atlanta Braves were interested in high school pitcher Zach Wheeler, but when he was taken by the San Francisco Giants with the sixth pick in the first round, the Braves knew who they wanted to draft with the next selection.
Vanderbilt left-hander Mike Minor.
In fact, if Wheeler had still been on the board when the Braves pick was up, it would have been a tough choice. And there's no guarantee Wheeler would have been the selection. The Braves like Minor that much.
"This guy is awesome," said Braves scouting director Roy Clark. "He's the total package."
Atlanta was impressed with Minor's performance last year for Team USA, and his strong outings late this season for Vandy convinced the Braves Minor would be a strong candidate for their pick.
Minor was 6-6 this season for the Commodores with a 3.90 ERA in 17 games (16 starts). He allowed 109 hits in 110.2 innings pitched, with 48 earned runs, 37 walks, and 114 strikeouts. Minor had a great game in the SEC tourney against SEC champion LSU, as he limited the Tigers to one run on six hits with five strikeouts.
As a sophomore last season, Minor was 7-3 with two complete games. The southpaw was 9-1 as a freshman with a 3.09 ERA, pitching behind David Price on the Vanderbilt staff.
Last summer Minor was the ace of the Team USA squad that was 24-0 and captured the FISU World University Championships in the Czech Republic in July. Minor was 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA with 37 strikeouts and 13 walks in 36 innings pitched. In his two years with the National team, Minor was 8-2 with a 1.17 ERA, with 17 walks, and 74 strikeouts in 69 innings of work.
Team USA featured Stephen Strasburg, but it was Minor who was the staff ace. He drew national attention with two wins against a tough Cuban National Team. In two starts, Minor threw 12.1 innings and allowed only one unearned run on eight hits, with 11 strikeouts. In the FISU World Collegiate Baseball Championship game Minor was dominant. He pitched 9.2 innings in a 12-inning contest won by Team USA. Minor did not allow a run, gave up four hits, and struck out nine. For that effort, Baseball America named Minor its Summer Player of the Year.
"This was the ace of Team USA," Clark said. "He's got a chance to win a lot of games in the big leagues. I love Mikie Minor."
Clark contends the talk about this being a safe pick, or about signability, is untrue. The Braves had Minor very high on their draft board. In fact, when the Padres were picking third, the Braves worried they'd take Minor. Instead, San Diego took Georgia prep outfielder Donovan Tate.
Minor is six-foot-four, 195-pounds. He attended Forrest High School in Chapel Hill, Tennessee. The left-hander is known as a great competitor, along with a strong assortment of pitches. The changeup is Minor's best pitch. Minor will turn 22 on December 26th. He's one of seven children, and Minor was a sociology major at Vanderbilt.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on
WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Braves Show Talk Show. Shanks writes a weekly baseball column for The Macon Telegraph and is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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