Prospect Showdown: Mike Minor vs. Jeremy Hellickson
Tale of the Tape:
Age: Minor, 22 (23 on December 26th), Hellickson, 23, (24 on 4/8/11).
Height/Weight: Minor, 6′3″, 200, Hellickson 6′1″, 185.
Bats/Throws: Minor, L/L, Hellickson, R/R
Minor: Atlanta Braves first round draft choice in the 2009 Draft out of Vanderbilt University. SEC Freshman of the Year in 2007, $2.4 million bonus is Atlanta club record.
Hellickson: Tampa Bay Rays fourth round pick in 2005 out of Des Moines High School. Rays 2008 Organization Pitcher of the Year, International League Postseason MVP.
Minor is a rare four-pitch pitchers, especially considering he is lefthanded. His best pitch is a plus-plus changeup he will throw at any time, in any count. His fastball isn’t overpowering, averaging right around 90, but it has alot of movement. His command and control are above average and he repeats his delivery well. At Vanderbilt his slider was an above average pitch, but his coaches wanted him to develop the curve, so much so it has passed the slider in quality.
Including 2010, Hellickson has a 45-16 career minor league record with a 2.56 ERA in 95 starts. Only once in six seasons, covering every stop in the Ray’s minor league chain did he allow more hits than innings pitched and has a career 5:1 K/BB ratio. Hellickson has three pitches, fastball, curve, change. The fastball is his best pitch right now, with the curve lagging behind the former two. Entering the 2009 season his biggest concern was lack of command but made tremendous strides as the season wore on. He’s an over the top pitcher who repeats his delivery consisently.
Minor’s been compared to Jeremy Sowers, another former Vanderbilt lefty. He’s not overpowering and will have to think himself around the strikezone in order to be successful. Initially a control pitcher, Minor’s struggled so far in 2010, walking 46 batters in 120.1 innings. The Braves would like Minor to scrap his slider but so far hasn’t shown enough day to day consistency with the curveball to make that happen.
The gap between Hellickson’s curve and change is improving but is still a concern if his fastball isn’t at its best. His arm angle sometimes drops and the result is the fastball straightens out and he becomes much more hittable.
Minor has an above average pickoff move and has an above his experience level ability to add/subtract velocity from his fastball in certain situations, essentially giving him a “fifth” pitch.
As everyone knows, the Rays are loaded with quality young arms. Hellickson really has nothing to prove at the minor league level but was the odd man out in spring training as former number one pick Jeff Neimann is out of options.
Both have recently made their major league debuts, with Hellickson picking up in the majors where he left off in the minors, going 3-0 to start his career.
I’ve seen Minor in person and quite honestly wasn’t all that impressed. Granted it was his first pro appearance, but I also saw Stephen Strasburg’s first pro appearance and was. Minor has a #3 ceiling as a starter, Hellickson a #2, maybe higher.
Both players have above average baseball intelligence, who learn quickly from their mistakes and who absorb from more experienced players around them. Both are fortunate to pitch for organizations with a history of slowly developing young pitchers, which causes concern now that Minor is in Atlanta just a year after being drafted. He hasn’t had the benefit of learning through the organizational chain that some of the other young Braves pitches have had. The Braves rushed Tommy Hanson, and after a lights out first few months of his career has struggled both in performance and in staying healthy.
A buddy of mine is a former Tampa beat writer and he pointed me in Hellickson’s direction a couple of years ago, so he’s been on my radar for awhile now.
Which makes choosing between the two a no-brainer.