The Atlanta Braves’ minor league system has been lauded by several sources as the best farm in the majors this offseason. Notable among the commentary is the high praise for the plethora of young arms scattered throughout Atlanta’s minor league affiliates. While the most high profile prospects such as Kolby Allard, Sean Newcomb, and Ian Anderson have received much of the attention, the best arm could be the one nobody is talking about. Let’s start with the stat line below:
2016: 34 IP, 16 H, 1 R, 9 BB, 47 K, 0 HR, 36.2 % K, 6.9% BB, 0.74 WHIP, .137/.195/.171
That ridiculous line belongs to one Alex Jordan Minter, and if it doesn’t get you excited enough, keep reading and allow me to be the hype man for the young lefty who could be the best closer in the majors in a few years.
AJ Minter came to the Braves via the 2015 draft. Atlanta GM John Coppolella made the lefty fireballer the 75th overall pick out of Texas A&M. Following what has become tradition for the Braves at this point, Minter was drafted just a few months after having season-ending Tommy Johns surgery, adding yet another surgically repaired arm to the cadre of artificial ligaments in the Braves’ system. Prior to his surgery though, Minter was one of the most coveted pitching prospects in the 2015 draft and posted a staggering 0.43 ERA through his first 4 starts before his injury. So why is nobody talking about him? Presumably, it’s because he’s the only Braves’ prospect who is already destined for the bullpen.
Those who expect major league bullpens to be filled by failed minor league starters should pause and take another look at Minter and consider that in a farm full of elite pitching prospects, Minter was described as the “best arm I have seen in the Minor Leagues by far” by an unnamed teammate who added that “No one came close” to Minter’s ability. When you examine his game, it’s not hard to see why he draws such lofty praise.
Before he underwent TJS, Minter was consistently throwing a fastball that topped out at 97 MPH but routinely hit 93-95. Post-TJS, that velocity has jumped to a maximum 99 while regularly reaching 94-96. On top of the velocity, Minter possesses pinpoint control of his fastball and has shown he is fully capable of hitting the corners with the pitch on demand. His lefty motion also adds a late arm-side run that makes the pitch close to unhittable when it’s on. If there is an 80-grade fastball in the Braves’ system, it’s this one. Frighteningly, Minter’s fastball isn’t even his best offering.
Paired with his devastating fastball, Minter offers up what could be the best slider in the Minor Leagues. Minter’s slider can justifiably be described as “ridiculous” as it tops out at 90 MPH but regularly hovers around the mid 80s. Combined with the consistent velocity, the pitch also has an extremely late break across the plate and often makes hitters look downright foolish as they flail away in hopes of making contact. Minter’s slider is a no-doubt 80-grade pitch, leaving the tremendous Atlanta lefty with an arsenal that is nearly unrivalled among his peers.
Minter is not without his flaws, though they are fairly minor compared to other prospects in the Braves’ system. He has a tendency to leave pitches up in the zone and doesn’t induce a lot of ground balls, but the pure filth of his stuff and better than average control mitigates his weaknesses fairly well. The biggest risk going forward for Minter is his health, and it is the most likely reason that he’s not being discussed among the best pitching prospects in the league. He’s yet to throw a full season with Atlanta, though the team is expecting just that from him in 2017. If he can replicate his 2016 minor league performance, expect to see Minter in the majors sometime in 2017 where he could easily be the best arm in the Atlanta bullpen.