The start of the season saw a few Future Rookies make their 2011 debuts a bit earlier than expected in Brandon Belt, who has ripped one home run and stolen a base, and Zach Britton, who pitched effectively limiting the Rays to just one run over six innings while striking out six and walking three. With the minor league squads yet to begin their seasons, this week’s edition of Future Rookies features just a couple arms.
Mike Minor, SP, Atlanta Braves, 23 years old
The loser of the battle for the fifth starter spot in the Braves rotation, Mike Minor finds himself getting an early season promotion and spot start in place of Jair Jurrjens on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s not the best matchup for the young starter as Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun and Casey McGehee all hit lefties at a healthy clip, but this presents a good opportunity to get some more major league experience. Minor offers a three-pitch mix that includes a fastball that sits in the low-90’s, which is a few ticks faster than he was throwing as a 2009 draftee, a curveball and a changeup. His changeup is his best pitch and is described as a plus pitch with plus-plus potential, and has over nine miles-per-hour of separation from his fastball. While his fastball doesn’t have elite velocity, it does offer a great deal of movement, according to both Baseball America and John Sickels. Thanks to tremendous command and control, he has been able to limit his walks and strikeout more than one batter per inning at each of his minor-league stops and in the majors. Hitters struggled to make contact against him in the majors last year, posting a lower contact rate than league average (76.9 percent contact rate versus 80.7 percent league average) and inducing more empty swings than league average as well (11.3 percent swinging strike rate versus 8.5 percent league average). Fantasy gamers in deep leagues in need of pitching help should add Minor and monitor Jurrjens’ progress. Jurrjens is expected back for his next turn in the rotation on April 18 versus the Mets, but should he suffer a setback, Minor becomes all the more interesting.
Andrew Oliver, SP, Detroit Tigers, 23 years old
Andrew Oliver flew threw the Tigers system, was prematurely promoted last season and was roughed up accordingly. Young left-handers capable of throwing a fastball that averages 93.8 MPH with two secondary offerings and passable control bare monitoring, and Oliver fits that bill. Largely reliant on his blazing heater, his slider and changeup need work, and seasoning in Triple-A should help him in the long run. The Tigers current rotation features converted reliever Phil Coke and Brad Penny, who is an injury waiting to happen and someone that struggled the last time he was in an American League rotation. A strong start to the season for Oliver, who gets his first action on April 7 against the Louisville Bats, and struggles or injury from either Coke or Penny could lead to a mid-season promotion. He’s certainly not a must-add at this point, but a player who warrants keeping tabs on for those in deep leagues, AL-only leagues, and dynasty formats.
Josh is a recent college graduate from SUNY Cortland where he majored in Sport Management. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe Forums where he posts as B-Chad.
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