Kris Medlen Will Regress In 2013, But He’s Still A Top 20 Starting Pitcher

Kris Medlen posted a dominating season in 2012, splitting time as both a starter and reliever. However, does that mean he is a lock to replicate that success in 2013? It’s hard to imagine, but let’s first take a look at his splits from last year to give us a better idea:

Starter – 83.2 IP, 0.97 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 9.04 K/9, 1.08 BB/9
Reliever – 54.1 IP, 2.48 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 5.96 K/9, 2.15 BB/9

It’s great that he pitched well as a relief pitcher, but considering he would never close does anyone really care? The Braves certainly don’t, as he is slated to be in the rotation all year in 2013.

Obviously we can’t expect him to replicate last seasons numbers, but how far of a fall can we expect? Part of the problem is that we don’t have much of a track record to draw from. Even in the minor leagues, of his 105 appearances, only 26 were starts. So, do his minor league numbers even matter?

Of 11 appearances at Triple-A, nine were starts. Can we really draw anything definitive there? Part of the problem is that he missed basically all of 2011 due to Tommy John surgery as well, just adding to the mystery of what is and isn’t real.

Generally pitchers struggle with their control coming back from the procedure, at least they used to. That isn’t the hard and fast rule anymore, and Medlen is a prime example. He posted a BB/9 of 2.14 in the minors, so while he won’t maintain his number as a starting pitcher he should still be among the better control artists in the league.

How about last year, where he benefitted from the following luck metrics as a starter:

  • BABIP – .248
  • Strand Rate – 93.3%

Can we really expect anything reasonably close to that? Of course not. Though the line drive rate as a starting pitcher was reasonable (17.3%), we all know this type of number just isn’t for real.

So, he won’t be as lucky. That’s not the end of the world, because I don’t think anyone would expect a starting pitcher to post a sub-1.00 ERA. The question we have to ask is if he has the skill set to post “real” stud numbers, when the luck isn’t there.

We have already established he has the control…

Last season he also showed the ability to induce groundballs, with a 54.7% rate as a starting pitcher and a 53.4% mark overall.

The real question is if he can continue racking up the strikeouts while starting. He did have a 10.31 K/9 in the minor leagues, but again a lot of that time was spent coming out of the bullpen. Would we want to bet on a strikeout per inning? It’s possible, but it’s hard to draw anything definitive. That said, even if he was in the 7.50-8.00 range, would anyone care?  It still would be more than enough to be a strong starting pitcher option.

Just for a second, lets look at the ratios of another potential ace:

  • K/9 – 8.34
  • BB/9 – 2.36
  • GB% – 50.8%

Those numbers belonged to Adam Wainwright, who was plagued by awful luck (including a 67.8% strand rate), but also was hit hard with a 23.0% line drive rate.

Lets rewind to 2010, when Wainwright had a LD% of 17.6%, K/9 of 8.32, BB/9 of 2.19 and a GB% of 51.6%. The results? A 2.42 ERA and 1.05 WHIP (courtesy of a .275 BABIP and 79.1% strand rate).

Am I saying Medlen will post similar numbers to Wainwright? No, because he still has to prove that he is capable of doing it over an entire season. However, I am saying the potential is there for him to be that good.  With what he has shown, coupled with the potential, he still should be considered a Top 20 starting pitcher for 2013.

What are your thoughts of Medlen?  Do you think he’ll post Top 20 numbers?  Why or why not?

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Make sure to check out all of our 2013 projections:

2013 Rankings: Top 40 Outfielders (#1-20) - Updated
Speed Options: Looking At Catchers With The Potential For 10+ SB (Molina, Martin & More)

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