Back in July, Chase mentioned that A.J. Minter could be primed for a much-needed bounce-back campaign, and to this point, that’s exactly what has happened.
Following the 2018 season, Minter was pegged as a left-handed Craig Kimbrel and the closer of the Braves’ future, which didn’t seem like such a lofty forecast at the time. He recorded 15 saves in a limited closer role and only gave up 22 ER in 61.1 IP with an excellent 2.72 FIP, but the pressure proved to be too much in the following season.
2019 saw the hard-throwing southpaw fall off a cliff after he began the year as the Braves primary closer and ended in AAA, which led to Alex Anthopoulos trading for multiple relievers at last year’s trade deadline.
Once Arodys Vizcaino was shut down early in the season, Minter imploded as the full-time closer. He was optioned multiple times and gave up 23 ER in 29.1 IP. The primary culprit for his downfall was his control. Minter’s BB/9 climbed to 7.1, up from 3.2 in 2019, and his WHIP sat above 2. However, even when he could throw strikes, he couldn’t help but leave the ball over the middle of the plate, leading to 36 hits, which added up to 11 knocks per 9 innings. However, he’s been entirely reborn in 2020.
In 9.2 innings pitched, Minter’s only surrendered 1 run, 2 walks, and 7 hits. He’s struck out 10, and his confidence looks higher than it ever has been. His insane 1.70 FIP is probably not sustainable, but it shows no luck is involved in his hot start (his ERA is 0.93). Minter’s due for some regression; it’s natural. Even 2016 Zach Britton and his 0.54 ERA posted a 1.94 FIP. However, this hot start does show that he is far from a lost cause just yet, even if he does end the season on a rough note.
The entire ‘pen has been clicking, and it seems Minter made the most of his time off in quarantine. If this is the guy the Braves can rely on for the rest of his career, the back-end of their bullpen should be in good shape for several years with their two southpaws — Minter and Will Smith.