How will Kris Medlen follow his brilliant 2012 run?
Revised: What are you comfortable betting to figure out what 83 2/3 innings of a 0.97 ERA meant?
Upon entering the rotation last summer, his rejuvenated stuff following Tommy John surgery posted an elite level of induced ground balls, and he efficiently worked the strike zone with pristine walk limitation. His changeup rated as one of the best in the league last year, per PITCHf/x, and he can be suffocating at times.
But there was also an abundance of exaggerated fortune in this dazzling but small window. Stranding runners at a high level, to some extent, can mold into a tendency, if not a skill; some hurlers escape jams better than others, via raw ability, pitch sequencing, their defense, or some combination of those and other traits.
Behold Medlen's dizzyingly outlandish 93.3 left-on-base percentage ... as a starter! (Boo, exclamation points, but there's one.) Come on! (Two.) That's even lofty for the best relief pitchers! (Yup. Three.) Even in his 2010 stretch as a rotation member, his 76.0 rating was a bit high. Other expected backlash targets: .249 BABIP and, even with his downward-moving pitches, 0.39 homers per nine.
The 27-year-old heads into his first full season as an MLB starter. He may experience fatigue late in the year and a minor conservation, following his 138 total innings last season, to keep him fresh; they have plenty of rotation alternatives to help them accomplish this goal.
Predicting he'd be a significant contributor when you could buy him for pennies hardly matches the pressure of tabbing him as one of your staff anchors. Might be obvious, but worth a reminder: Few, if any, starting pitchers face a bigger regression factor than him, even if his numbers return to quote-unquote normal. That alone should make you want to think twice about paying a bloated price.
He'll more closely resemble the 2010 version of himself that, in 84 frames from a game-opening rubber, posted a 3.68 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 6.60 K/9 and 1.71 BB/9; we'll give a tad more credit on the strikeouts, though, because of his progress. Those aren't bad numbers, but they surely don't suggest making him an ace or second mixed hurler. As a third with two relatively stable throwers in front of him? Better, yet still not as ideal as an SP4 designation.
Which hurler has the best chance at a Medlen-like breakout?
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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