Lawrenceville, Georgia —— Entering play on Sunday, Atlanta Braves left-handed pitching prospect AJ Minter is 0-2 with a 4.19 ERA over 20 games (all relief) across four affiliates in the organization, including the International League‘s Gwinnett Braves, with 23 strikeouts against nine walks in 19.1 innings pitched in 2017. I observed the 23-year-old Texas A&M product in a recent mid-July series against Lehigh Valley; below is Baseball Census‘ full AJ Minter scouting report, including video.
AJ Minter Scouting Report — Video
Our video of Atlanta Braves left-handed pitching prospect AJ Minter shows his mechanics in a July 18 outing against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville:
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AJ Minter Scouting Report — Notes
AJ Minter is a well-built lefty with a very strong, thick lower half. High three-quarters arm angle with quick, short arm action but he shows good extension out front. Lacks ideal downward plane on pitches and his stuff can get flattened out, especially up in the zone, but he has enough life on his pitches to survive at the Triple-A level (and likely to some degree at the big league level, too). The Atlanta Braves prospect throws a fastball, a cut fastball, and a slider, all three of which are hard. His fastball can sit anywhere from 92-98 mph, and shows occasional arm-side run while sneaking up on hitters. He’s not afraid to work inside with it, especially to lefties, and while it is already above-average, the fastball has the makings of becoming an extremely good pitch down the road.
Minter’s cutter comes in 89-93 mph, and it’d be a pretty decent second look were it not for the slider (more on that in a minute). Slider aside, the cutter moves hard and late, but lacks consistent vertical depth and shows itself as a horizontal mover. Should be effective getting in on the hands of right-handed hitters, but in my look at least the cutter struggled to miss bats and is far from a true strikeout pitch. That’s doubly apparent when you add in Minter’s slider, an 84-89 mph offering with far better vertical depth and more sweeping cross-plate action to it than the cutter. The two pitches break similarly with similar end results, though the slider is a far better wipeout pitch that’ll legitimately miss bats from hitters on both sides of the plate. To that end, I wonder about the efficacy of throwing two remarkably similar pitches that produce remarkably similar results. That is, I can’t help but wonder if AJ Minter would be better off scrapping one (the cutter) and focusing more time on making his slider even better than it already is; as he is now, it’s very difficult for Minter to sequence the cutter off the slider and vice versa, because the pitches show such similar life.
A Tommy John surgery survivor, AJ Minter has been brought along slowly the Atlanta Braves, pitching across four levels in 2017 alone during his comeback from the injury that he originally sustained at Texas A&M. He’s ideal for a bullpen role and pitches like a bulldog, unafraid of challenging hitters with a no-nonsense approach. That should serve him well moving forward, as he may have enough life in his repertoire to be more than just a left-handed situational reliever.
AJ Minter Scouting Report — Projection
Still just 23 years old and moving quickly as a bullpen arm, especially relative to his elbow surgery and recovery, AJ Minter ought to find himself making a sustained big league impact at some point next summer. Other evaluators have been high on his cutter in the past, and it’s likely I just caught it on a particularly flat day, but I think Minter would do well to improve his bullpen prospects by scrapping the middling cutter altogether and improving his dynamic slider to go along with a very hard fastball. A true power fastball-slider combination like that from the left side will miss quite a few bats, and the southpaw has enough life on each pitch to be more than a situational one-out guy in a big league bullpen.
Far more than the slider/cutter issue, though, the Atlanta Braves are likely concerned about AJ Minter’s health and recovery from surgery. To that end, I’m encouraged by his command profile, and his arm strength is clearly back and shouldn’t be in question. While he may be handled with relative care the rest of this year (he’s about 27 months removed from elbow surgery, so well in the clear), it wouldn’t surprise me to see him really air it out while competing for a bullpen job come spring training. With his power profile from the left side, AJ Minter could turn himself into one of the breakout relievers in the big leagues next year if everything goes to plan.