Mike Minor and the Unlikely Path to Stardom

Mike Minor
ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 04: Mike Minor #36 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning of a baseball game at Globe Life Park in Arlington on August 4, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Most people would say he’s quite dull, as he walks onto the mound in his customary white cleats getting ready for another start. The grey hairs on his beard indicate he is not a young man. His four-seamer that tops out at 93mph is further proof of that. However, Mike Minor isn’t quite focused on his age, or how fast he may throw. He is just happy to be playing the sport that he loves. Doing it at an ace-type level is just the cherry on top.

The year was 2014 and Mike Minor was a fresh 24-year-old lefty ready to catch the world by storm. After a successful 2013 season that saw him post a 13-9 record with a healthy 3.21 ERA. For all my analytical nerds, that’s a 3.17 FIP and 117 ERA+. The 2014 season came, and Minor failed to live up to the expectations he set for the world. 6-12 with a 4.77 ERA. The analytics weren’t any better.

There’s No Comeback Without a Fall: Mike Minor’s Path to Stardom

Discomfort Leads to Dismay

Mike Minor knew something was off before the 2014 season even started. His shoulder, every time he pitched something just didn’t feel right. One may think, why not just tell the staff? Think about being 25 on the arbitration stage of your rookie contract after the best year of your career, would you? He pitched through it, his MRIs were clean, nobody understood it. Minor, however, felt it. On May 14, 2015, he went in for shoulder surgery. His contract, up to the Braves with no guarantees. Minor never put on a Braves uniform again.

Mike Minor sat at home the 2015 season, watching a year of his career go by the wayside. Little did he know that the 2016 season would only bring more of the same. Rehab specialists, routine workouts, everything Minor tried to do failed him. That’s when Minor went back under the MRI tube, only to reveal a small tear in his labrum. Before his 2016 season began, it was already over.

“After I didn’t make it back (for 2016), I thought my career was over. I kept a lot of those thoughts inside because I didn’t want to sound like I wasn’t confident that I would come back. But my shoulder hurt every single day. I started to think about what I was going to do after baseball, but I couldn’t come up with anything. I could be good at a lot of things, but I don’t have any other interests.”

At the End of Every Storm…

If it weren’t for the Kansas City Royals, we may have really seen Mike Minor the social worker. (He studied sociology at Vanderbilt.) The Royals took a chance on Minor, signing him to a one-year deal even with the knowledge he wouldn’t be ready for the start of the season. Where many around the country had forgotten the rise of Mike Minor, the Royals did not. He never started a game for them. Oh wait, did you think this ended negatively? No, he shined as a bullpen piece for the Royals. This is the stats part, right? Try a 6-6 record with a 2.55 ERA. (2.62 FIP, 176 ERA+)

A New Beginning For Mike Minor

Mike Minor entered the 2016-2017 offseason as one of the most sought out relievers on the market. There was one major problem with this. Mike wanted to start. The question for him became who’s willing to take the chance on a 30-year-old with an extensive history to start? The Texas Rangers did, giving him a three-year, $28 million dollar contract, and an opportunity to start. An opportunity was enough for him, and it’s all he needed.

Now, this isn’t one of your stories where the hero triumphs right away, that would just make it a bad one. His 2018 season wasn’t great. Just don’t forget the most important part, he pitched, he started, he lasted the full season. He pitched to the tune of a 12-8 record with a 4.18 ERA. (4.43 FIP, 111 ERA+) It wasn’t ideal for him, but it wasn’t a bad season by any means. While we didn’t know it, Minor did, he was back.

…Comes a Rainbow

Enter 2019, the Rangers entered the season with a whole lot of questions, and not many answers. They were rebuilding, and expectations were low. When expectations are low, quiet minds shine. So that dull and boring guy we talked about earlier, is taking the league by storm. He could have been the AL all-star starter, but that’s another story. He’s an all-star, two years from removed from being removed from the league. He’s dominating, 8-4 with a 2.73 ERA. (3.82 FIP, 186 ERA+).

While the FIP isn’t what you want it to be, it hasn’t been all year. Report after report about how the downfall is coming, but he hasn’t stopped. He won’t stop. Mike Minor thought his career was over midway through 2016. Three years later, he’s one of the hottest commodities on the trade market, and on top of the world. He’s pitched so well that the Rangers are actually in the thick of the second Wild Card spot and might hold on to him for the stretch run.

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