Kris Medlen came out of nowhere for the Atlanta Braves in 2012 as a converted starter, bolstering the rotation and helping the team secure a wild card berth. Medlen was rewarded for his standout season with a start in the one game playoff against the St. Louis Cardinals. Though the Braves lost the game, Medlen pitched into the seventh inning, allowed two earned runs with four strikeouts and had a WHIP of 0.49.
Expectations will be very high for the four year righty to piggy-back on his stellar second half in 2012. Can Medlen keep his 2013 numbers in line with what his past performance has showcased?
2013 will be his first full season as a starter which will result in a career high in innings pitched. He pitched 138 innings in 2012 and 120.1 in 2008 with the Double-A Mississippi Braves. No doubts for him being able to handle the workload but it may cause some of his numbers to even out.
Medlen’s strong points are his incredible control as well as his ability to keep the ball in the park. His career BB/9 is 2.11–only because of it hitting 3.99 his rookie year in 2009. Interestingly, his K/9 was also a career high in 2009 — 9.58 to be exact. The thing with Medlen is, as his innings pitched increase, his strikeout rate decreases. What does not change is his HR/9 rate which sat at 0.39 in his career year in innings pitched (as a successful starter, you wouldn’t like your HR/9 to go above 0.80).
Though Medlen doesn’t have big-time velocity, the movement on his pitches and his knack for location allowed for a 10.1% whiff rate in 2012. Nonetheless, it’s doubtful that he breaks 200 strikeouts but don’t necessarily rule it out.
In terms of ERA, it will take a tremendous effort for Medlen to stay in line with his 2012 mark. In 2010, Medlen pitched over 100 innings and his ERA was 3.68 — right in line with his FIP of 3.78. Not a bad ERA at all — especially for a young pitcher not accustomed to starting games outside the 2008 Double-A season where he started 17 games; his ERA that year was 3.52.
At worse, Medlen could be demoted to the bullpen if he isn’t producing wins as a starter. At best, Medlen will have ace-caliber stuff and could push Tim Hudson aside as number one starter should Atlanta still be playing baseball in late October.
Generally speaking, Medlen will be good for 180 innings, 15 wins, a 1.20 WHIP and a 3.00 ERA. His K/BB rate should be in the neighborhood of 3-to-1, higher if his control stays on and he keeps hitters guessing with breaking pitches.
With those estimates, along with assuming Hudson maintains his role as team ace and Paul Maholm‘s spring carries over into the regular season, Atlanta could have one of the best rotations in all of Major League Baseball.