Mike Minor: Texas Rangers’ ace by default or legitimate ace?

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ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 07: Mike Minor
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 07: Mike Minor /
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Whether he likes it or not, Mike Minor has been deemed the ace of the Texas Rangers’ staff. Can he pitch like a true ace in 2019?

No one asked Mike Minor to be the Texas Rangers’ ace. He sort of just became it. Cole Hamels left and Minor earned the claim of being the club’s top arm. Now, he’s the only returning starter and he threw more innings last year than every other projected member of this season’s rotation. He’ll be the first pitcher to toe the rubber at Globe Life Park on opening day.

Is it fair to expect ace-like numbers from him in 2019?

Consider his 2018 season first. Minor went 12-8 with a 4.18 ERA over 157 innings pitched. He posted a solid 1.121 WHIP and 116 ERA+. Across the board, he was the Rangers’ top starting pitcher.

Texas Rangers
CHICAGO, IL – MAY 20: Mike Minor #36 of the Texas Rangers throws a pitch during the first inning of a game against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on May 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

It was truly an impressive year given the fact that he hadn’t started since 2014. Shoulder surgery in 2015 derailed his career, but he was able to get back on track as a reliever with the Kansas City Royals in 2017. Minor tossed 77 innings that year, notching a 2.55 ERA and averaging 10.2 K/9.

He was dominant, but jumping from reliever in Kansas City to starter in Texas was a legitimate concern.

By all accounts, last year was a vast success for the 31-year-old as a starter. He was the one pitcher that gave fans a feeling of confidence when he took the mound. He exceeded the organization’s expectations and he stood out as a rare bright spot in a down team season.

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However, exceeded expectations means raised expectations. He’s entering the 2019 season as the Ranger ace, so he’s expected to pitch like an ace. Does that mean he needs to match Max Scherzer or Justin Verlander? No. But it does mean he needs to eat innings, keep his ball club in games and set the tone for the rest of the staff.

Texas intends to take the training wheels off. Minor averaged just 5.6 innings per start a season ago. He did not pitch beyond the 7th inning once. His limitations were not due to struggles; rather, he was limited because the Rangers were afraid to extend him. That will change this year.

200 is the number in mind for every starting pitcher. A 200-inning season is what every starter strives for because it means the pitcher stayed healthy, pitched well, and gave his team what was desired. Only 13 pitchers hit the mark in all of major league baseball last season.

Yes a 15-win season would be nice from Mike Minor, but 200+ innings would be phenomenal. Such longevity is much desired from a first year manager who plans to have four Tommy John survivors start games in 2019. The Texas Rangers need an innings horse, and Minor is perhaps their best shot at one.

I’m certainly excited to see what he does this year. Looking at his numbers, it’s hard to believe his ERA was 4.18 last year. You’d think it’d be lower. Minor didn’t walk many, his opponent’s batting average was .235, and he held hitters to a measly .202 average with runners in scoring position.

It was really just the long ball that got him into trouble. His 1.4 home runs allowed per nine innings was not bad, but it wasn’t good either. 16 of the 25 home runs he gave up occurred at Globe Life Park.

Next. Projecting the Texas Rangers Opening Day Roster. dark

If he can find a way to keep the ball in the yard in 2019, especially at home, then we can expect a special year from the talented lefty. He may be Texas’ ace by default at the moment, but he can transcend into a true ace once the regular season gets rolling.

Predictions: 13-7 W/L, 3.50 ERA, 187 IP, 17 HR, 153 Ks

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