This Spring Training will be much different for Kris Medlen than last year’s. He will be adjusting into two new roles – father and ace. Medlen and his wife gave birth to their first child last week, and Medlen told MLB.com’s Mark Bowman that both his wife and baby boy will be moving to the Orlando area for the rest of Spring Training. Not only will he be making the adjustment to being a father, but also as the potential ace for the Atlanta Braves in 2013. The expectations are not far-fetched considering the way Medlen finished last season. The question becomes can he build on that conclusion for an entire season?
2012 Recap: It’s remarkable to look back at Medlen’s 2012 season. Medlen pinballed from the bullpen to the starting rotation multiple times and became the Martin Prado of the pitching staff. Medlen began in the bullpen, went to the minors in preparation to become a starter, came back to the bullpen before being inserted as a starter for the remainder of the season on July 31. Not a typical season for a pitcher, and Medlen was still brilliant in posting a 10-1 record and 1.57 ERA. What gives Braves’ fans the most excitement is the 9-0 record and ERA just above one during his time as a starter last year. Did I mention this was all after undergoing Tommy John surgery?
2013 Outlook: This season should offer much more stability for Medlen. There is no question about his spot in the rotation, and he has drawn comparisons to former Braves’ great Greg Maddux. Therefore, he can enter this Spring Training with a sense of comfort and look to become an elite pitcher. Before Braves fans anoint him the next Maddux, they should be wary of Medlen’s lack of experience. The most innings he pitched came last year (138) and his most starts came in 2010 (14). His 2011 season was spent recovering from the Tommy John surgery. That’s not a lot of time on the mound for someone to be garnering consideration for the No. 1 spot in the rotation.
Despite the questions, 2013 looks to be the year for Medlen to become the ace. Medlen features a lively fastball, devastating changeup and effective breaking ball to go along with outstanding control. His effectiveness comes from his ability to throw all of those pitches to both sides of the plate in any count. He finished with a .913 WHIP and 5.22 strikeout-to-walk ratio – both second on the team to closer Craig Kimbrel. And the lack of innings could actually benefit Medlen as he has clearly not been overworked at this stage of his career. Combine his ability with the aging of Tim Hudson and the fact he isn’t under contract past this season, gives reason for Medlen to take over as the ace. That’s exactly what I expect he’ll do. If healthy, I’m looking for a 16-18 win season with an ERA around 3.25. It should be an exciting year for Braves’ fans and for Medlen in his year of adjustment.