Braves go with college arm with first pick
Vanderbilt southpaw Minor is seventh overall Draft selection
ATLANTA -- Count Mike Minor among those who were convinced that the Braves were going to find a way to select Zack Wheeler with their first selection during Tuesday's First-Year Player Draft.
In fact, it wasn't until the Giants selected Wheeler with the sixth overall selection that Minor came to the realization that he was going to have the opportunity to realize his dream to play for the same Braves organization that he followed throughout his youthful days in Tennessee.
Through the multiple conversations that he shared with his advisor, Bo McKinnis, on Tuesday, Minor had never been given reason to believe Braves director of scouting Roy Clark's contention that he truly always was the guy he'd most wanted to grab with the seventh overall selection. Nevertheless, when the Braves took him with their earliest selection since 1991, Minor began distancing himself from his stellar career at Vanderbilt University and immediately set his sights on making a quick journey toward the Majors.
"It's awesome having grown up a Braves fan and being close to home," said Minor, who hails from Chapel Hill, Tenn. "Now all my friends and family can come see me when I do make it. ... It's awesome being a Braves guy now."
Given that Clark played at the University of North Carolina, there was always reason to believe that he had his sights on a right-hander from Chapel Hill. But given the chance to grab UNC's current ace, Alex White, he instead opted for Minor, a 21-year-old left-hander whose resume was enhanced with the stellar performances he provided USA Baseball's collegiate national team last summer.
"I'm very pleased with the guy that we got and I know that the baseball world thought that we were taking Zack Wheeler," Clark said. "But we're very pleased with the guy we got."
Once the Giants took Wheeler, an impressive high school product from suburban Atlanta, with the sixth overall selection, the Braves immediately placed a call to Minor, who went 6-6 with a 3.90 ERA during his recently completed junior season at Vanderbilt University.
While his recently compiled statistics might not be eye-opening, the Braves saw Minor flourish toward the latter part of this season. His finest effort arguably occurred on May 20, when he scattered six hits and gained a complete-game victory over top-seeded LSU in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Minor truly began drawing widespread attention last summer, when he went 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA in six appearances (five starts) with Team USA.
"That boosted my confidence, to just be able to play with those guys," Minor said. "Playing with a wood bat, with the top players and on the Olympic team, it just shows me that I am a big leaguer and that I will be there in a couple of years."
After beating the Cuban National Team twice, he was named Baseball America's Summer Player of the Year. As Clark pointed out, his statistics proved to be better than Team USA teammate Stephen Strasburg, the heralded right-hander who was taken by the Nationals with Tuesday's first overall selection.
"There were some pretty good players on that team and I know one of them throws 100 mph, but this guy is a winner," Clark said. "We've been tracking him for a long time. We were hoping for the opportunity to select him and now I'm just hoping for the opportunity to sign him."
Minor didn't seem to provide reason to believe that he intends to prolong the negotiating process.
"I see something happening pretty quick within the next week or two or whatever," Minor said. "I'm definitely not thinking about holding out. If they have a fair offer, it should be pretty soon."
While the ERA he posted this year was marred by disappointing performances against Tennessee and South Carolina, Minor still impressed with 114 strikeouts and 37 walks in 110 2/3 innings. His fastball rests between 89 and 91 mph, and scouts have primarily seen him use his slider as his breaking pitch.
Some scouting reports have indicated that Minor doesn't use his changeup enough. But Clark, who personally watched the left-hander pitch at least five times, refers to the offspeed delivery as his out pitch.
Without specifying where Minor might begin his professional career, Clark didn't discount the possibility that the hurler could make his way toward the Majors within the next couple of years.
"We feel that he's very advanced and he's going to decide when he gets here once he gets out there and starts to pitch," Clark said.
In the third round, the Braves selected David Hale, a right-handed pitcher out of Princeton University. A product of suburban Atlanta's East Cobb League, Hale drew Clark's attention in high school and then further impressed with a fastball that has reached 97 mph during his days at Princeton. In 40 2/3 innings this year, he went 2-3 with a 4.74 ERA and recorded 47 strikeouts.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.