The Arizona Summer League is generally dominated by hitters, particularly those with line drive strokes that can take advantage of the Major League size playing field and the high school sized defenders, but the AZL Indians’ ace has found a way to be dominant despite the hot, dry weather and general offensive performance around the league.
Micah Miniard was drafted by the Indians in the 8th round in 2014 (248th overall), but was only used sparingly as a reliever in his first season. This year, he has been the ace since day one, making seven starts with a 3.35 ERA. While the bullpen has cost him a few wins, including one on Opening Day when he shut out the Reds on two hits for five innings, his talent is obvious beyond basic stats. Yesterday, he hit a personal best with five no hit innings against the AZL Angels.
To start, many young pitchers (Miniard turned 19 last April) struggle with control, particularly certain pitchers on the Indians staff, but not Miniard. He has already made two starts of at least five innings with no walks and is yet to walk more than two in a single game. In addition, when he does get behind, he is not one to just chuck one up and see where it lands. While he does work primarily with his fast ball, which comes in between 89 and 92 MPH, he is able to pin point it at the corners well enough to keep hitters off balance without excess walks.
In only one start this season has Miniard been kept from going five innings (June 30th against the White Sox) and only twice has he given up more than three runs in a start. While some AZL pitchers can benefit from errors keeping their ERA down (poor lighting and slightly less than MLB quality field surfaces can make ground balls difficult for the teenage infielders), Miniard has given up just four unearned run all year.
In addition, Miniard also appears to have a nice curve and a decent change of pace to keep hitters off his fastball, but he hasn’t used them much in the starts I have seen. He will likely have to develop these pitches more if he wants to succeed against batters that were in high school a few months ago. That being said, in the few looks I have gotten at his breaking pitch, it is impressive and has hitters swinging at pitches that Jason Rodriguez is picking off the dirt.
As you can see, Miniard is a large man at 6’7″ and he uses his height and a late release point to keep batters from seeing the pitch until the last second. Overall, Miniard is one of the most impressive Indians pitchers in their first season as a starter that I have seen since I started covering the AZL team. It’s way too early to make any real judgments, but he is definitely going to be one to watch for the next few years.