Ex-Forrest star drafted by Braves
Mike Minor is staying in the south and could soon play for organization he cheered for as a child.
Minor, a left-handed pitcher who starred at Forrest High School and Vanderbilt University, was taken by the Atlanta Braves with the No. 7 pick in Tuesday night's amateur draft.
During a conference call with Atlanta media on Tuesday night, Minor said he grew up as a Braves fan in Chapel Hill.
"Being so close to home, all my friends and family can come see me play when I do make it," Minor said. "Everyone is going wild. It's awesome to be with the Braves."
Minor, originally drafted out of high school by Tampa Bay in the 13th round of the 2006 draft, did not have a dazzling season for the Commodores. He went 6-6 with a 3.90 ERA, giving up 109 hits in 110 2-3 innings.
But according to Braves director of scouting Roy Clark, Minor's numbers improved significantly when the Vandy coaching staff allowed him to call his own game, rather than look to the dugout for what pitch to throw.
"His numbers were a little bit deceiving this year," Clark said. "They allowed him to start calling his own game the last month or so, and that's when he really took off. A lot of guys are just better like that."
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.
All of the Braves' minor-league affiliates are in the south, including teams in Rome, Ga., Pearl, Miss., and Lawrenceville, Ga.
The Braves were most impressed with Minor's performance on the U.S. national team last summer. He beat amateur powerhouse Cuba twice and was the best pitcher on a squad that also included Stephen Strasburg, picked No. 1 overall by the Washington Nationals.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 195-pound Minor has been clocked in the low 90s with his fastball and throws a slider and curve. But his best pitch is a changeup. Not surprisingly, two of his favorite Braves were Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, pitchers who relied on guile and location more than overpowering stuff.
Minor started throwing the changeup when he was 12.
"My dad wouldn't let me throw breaking balls because he was afraid I would hurt my elbow, so I started throwing the change," he said. "It ended up being my best pitch."
It didn't hurt to play for Vanderbilt, which has produced several top prospects in recent years. Jeremy Sowers is now in Cleveland, David Price was the top pick in 2007 and Pedro Alvarez was No. 2 overall a year ago.
Minor turned down a $750,000 offer from Tampa Bay coming out of high school. He'll get a lot more with the Braves, who know that someone with three years of college experience has a chance to make it to the big leagues a lot quicker than a prep player.
He doesn't expect contract negotiations to be an issue this time around.
"I see it happening pretty quick, probably in the next week or two," Minor said. "I'm definitely not planning to hold out."
Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin was proud of Minor.
"Mikie is as good as any of the pitchers that have been in our program," he said. "He has been a phenomenal young man to coach and I will miss what he and his family brought to our program. I am excited for him and look forward to watching him play at the next level."