Texas Rangers in Need of Strong Start from Mike Minor

Texas Rangers pitcher Mike Minor is set to start Sunday against the Seattle Mariners as the MLB Trade Deadline approaches (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Texas Rangers pitcher Mike Minor is set to start Sunday against the Seattle Mariners as the MLB Trade Deadline approaches (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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With the trade deadline approaching and important decisions looming, the Texas Rangers are in desperate need of a strong start from Mike Minor.

The MLB Trade Deadline is now just eight days away and the Texas Rangers are trending heavily towards the ‘sell’ category. Following Saturday’s 10-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners, the Rangers have now dropped seven in a row and they have heavy decisions looming on how they’re going to approach they moves they make over the coming week. With a lot riding on the next few days, the Rangers are in need of a bounce back performance from Mike Minor who has struggled so far this season.

Minor’s struggles to open the year have been well-documented with his ERA floating just under 7.00 through five starts. Much of Minor’s issues have been credited to the interruption of the normal preseason format due to COVID-19 and in turn, a delay to Minor’s normal throwing routine. Texas views this as the reason for his drop in velocity over the past few outings and attempted to help rectify the issue a couple of weeks ago by holding Minor to a pitch limit.

He seemed to have bounced back two outings ago while on that pitch count going four shutout innings against the Mariners while striking out four. However, when he started against the Padres in his next day in the rotation Minor failed to escape the third inning against the Padres allowing six earned runs.

After the loss to San Diego, Minor commented on his struggle to use his changeup which has been arguably his most effective pitch in his time in Texas. Last season opponents only hit .178 against Minor’s changeup with a .223 BABIP per FanGraphs. This season though opponents have a .214 average against Minor’s changeup and the BABIP has skyrocketed to .385 with a wRC+ of 86. Minor utilizes his changeup to set up at-bats and with that pitch off, Minor’s usual plan of attack against batters has to change.

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The reasons for Texas to be hopeful of a Minor bounce back on Sunday are two-fold. The most obvious and immediate is the need for the Rangers to right this losing skid in which they currently find themselves. Minor entered the season with expectations of being one of Texas’ most influential players and with the job of helping anchoring a rotation that would carry the Rangers. Lance Lynn has been Cy Young-caliber this season but with the loss of Corey Kluber and struggles of Jordan Lyles, there is even more need for Minor to be dominant.

Additionally, the uncomfortable reality that Texas could look to shop Minor over the next eight days has arrived. Minor reportedly drew plenty of interest last year at the deadline but nobody wowed Texas enough to part with one of their biggest free agent successes in recent memory. This season though, Texas doesn’t have the comfort of another season of Minor under contract to lean on meaning the need to move him has grown or Texas risks losing him for nothing at the end of the year.

The Rangers could hold onto him and extend him an $18 million qualifying offer at season’s end and if he signs elsewhere, Texas would receive a compensatory draft pick. However, with how Minor has looked this season, it’s no guarantee that he would receive offers in the $18 million per year neighborhood meaning if the Rangers offer him the qualifying offer, they could be overpaying.  Still, even in that scenario, there’s benefit for Texas if Minor can right the ship on the season.

Minor is schedule to make two more starts before the deadline and if the Rangers are looking to move him, they could benefit from some added value by a couple of strong starts. The Mariners provide a decent opportunity for that especially considering how well Minor performed in his last time out against Seattle.

There is some evidence to point to the fact that Minor’s inflated ERA isn’t quite indicative of how he’s pitched. Minor’s FIP (fielding independent pitching) is a 4.42 which is actually not that far off from his 4.25 FIP from 2019, his best season with the Rangers. That would indicate that he’s somewhat been the victim of the Rangers below average ability in the field, a known struggle of this club currently. Per Statcast, Minor’s xERA is 4.95, which trails only Jonathan Hernandez, Lance Lynn and Kolby Allard among qualified Texas Rangers’ pitchers.

There’s no question that Minor has better performances in him than what we’ve seen. He’ll be the first to voice his frustration over his start to the season. Moving forward though, his start against Seattle on Sunday afternoon will go a long way to determining how Texas plans their decision-making involving Minor and as a whole moving forward.

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