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Prospect Profile: Braves Pitcher Kris Medlen

May 11, 2009 BY ALEX EISENBERG 2 Comments

One prospect previously lost in the shuffle of top Atlanta Braves pitching prospects is Kris Medlen. Not anymore.

Medlen first caught my eye in 2007, when he was used out of the bullpen. Clean mechanics, solid fastball, plus curve, good control…an intelligent pitcher. However, reliever prospects don’t get much attention because of the sheer number of them, plus the fact that a team can always shift a starter prospect into the bullpen, which makes it even harder for a reliever prospect to standout.

So I was intrigued when the Braves went ahead with plans to make Medlen a starter, a move with a much worse rate of success compared to moving starters to the bullpen. Medlen ended up thriving…his numbers as a starter resembled what he put up in the bullpen. In fact, they were probably better.

Medlen has continued his success as a starter early on this season. His numbers have been spectacular thus far:

34.5 K%, 6.4 BB%, .266 BABIP, 0 HRs, 1.17 ERA

Stuff

Medlen has a quality three-pitch mix — a better than average fastball, a plus curveball, and a solid-average change-up. The development of his change-up has been key to his success as a starter.

Medlen does a good job of mixing his pitches and keeping hitters guessing. He generates plenty of swings and misses with his curveball, which looks like a high fastball coming out of his hand. He manipulates the pitch, able to throw it for strikes or bury it in the dirt. He’s also able to add or subtract velocity to the pitch as he pleases. Below is Medlen’s fastball (left) and curveball (right):

kris-medlen-fastballkris-medlen-curve
*Credit to Minor League Baseball

Medlen controls all his pitches well, but he often gets too much of the plate, making him somewhat hittable. While all his pitches will play at the big league level, he doesn’t have a dominance factor like many of the elite pitchers do. He’s not going to blow hitters away with his fastball. He has to use his intelligence to his advantage.

Mechanics

kris-medlen
*Credit to Minor League Baseball

Medlen’s mechanics are a nice balance between power and safety. He keeps a short arm action, giving his pitches some deception. His tempo is fairly average, but he generates good separation between his torso and hips, which helps him produce solid velocity. He’s generally able to get over his front leg, but there are times when he ends up landing stiffly and pitching uphill, which is the only real negative from an injury standpoint that I see.

Medlen projects to be a potential No. 3 starter, but will more likely settle in as a strong No. 4. If starting doesn’t work out, there will always be a role out of the bullpen to fall back on.

*Also See: Meet Tommy Hanson, Your New Braves Starter

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  • 2 Comments »

    • Damien, a French reader said:

      Great article, as always! I enjoy reading your mechanic analysis on players and as a Braves fan, I’m glad you picked Medlen up. I’m sure many MLB pitchers who struggle with their mechanics would be happy to meet you. Keep it up!

    • Alex Eisenberg (author) said:

      Thanks for the kind words, Damien!!