POSITION: Right-handed relif pitcher
BORN ON: October 7, 1985
AGE: Will be 22 this season
BORN IN: Artesia, California
LIVES IN: Norwalk, California
WEIGHT: 185 pounds
SCHOOL: Santa Ana Junior College
ACQUIRED: Drafted in the 10th round of the 2006 draft
SIGNED BY: Tom Battista
STATISTICSClick here for Medlin's 2007 stats
SCOUTING REPORTKris Medlen's steamroll through the minor leagues continued in 2007 through three different levels of baseball. He was almost perfect in Rome, outstanding in Myrtle Beach, only to have a small hiccup (one bad game) in Double-A Mississippi.
Overall, Medlen's 2007 season was unbelievable: 2-1, 1.53 ERA , 38 games, 39 hits allowed in 47 innings, eight earned runs, 12 walks, and 63 strikeouts. He now has a career ERA of 1.17 in 58 minor league games over the past two seasons, with 99 strikeouts in 69 innings pitched.
Medlen then went to the Hawaiian Winter League and pitched in 11 games and posted a 1.88 ERA. He allowed 10 hits in 14.1 innings, with four walks, and 27 strikeouts. Contrary to reports in Baseball America, Medlen did not leave Hawaii early due to elbow soreness. Instead, he simply had a tired arm and the Braves wanted him to go ahead and shut things down since last season was his first full year as a pitcher.
When Medlen was in junior college at El Camino, he mainly played shortstop. He would run to the bullpen to warm up after the 8th inning and then come in to close games in the 9th inning. Only four big league teams were interested in him, two as a shortstop and two as a pitcher. The Braves loved what they saw of him on the mound and took him as a pitcher in the 10th round of the 2006 draft.
Medlen has not really been challenged yet in the minor leagues. His success, particularly for someone that has not had that much experience as a pitcher, has been incredible. But what's really shocking is that this kid is doing this really in a shortstop's body. You don't look at Kris Medlen and think of someone with a 1.17 ERA in minor league baseball. You wonder if instead he can come in late as a reserve infielder.
But this kid can pitch. Yes, he's not a very big kid (5'10", 175 pounds). But Medlen is proving you don't have to be very big to be a successful pitcher. His stuff is outstanding, and his aggressive approach would make you think he's more like 6'10" than 5'10'.
The Braves really believe they have something special with Kris Medlen. His fastball is 92-94 mph, with good life on it. Scouts say the ball just jumps out of Medlen's hand and looks more like 96 mph. There is an explosiveness that you just don't expect out of a body that is not more towering. He throws very naturally, very fluid, and batters don't seem to pick the ball up very well.
But Medlen's advantage is that he also has an above average curve (78 mph) and changeup. One coach called those two pitches for Medlen "incredible." Medlen can also throw a mid-80s slider up once in a while, but his curve (a ‘knockout' pitch) and change are true out pitches. With his fastball, curve, and change, Medlen has three plus pitches right now, which again considering his history as more of an infielder is pretty incredible.
Medlen has been compared to Jeff Montgomery (5'11", 180) and Jeff Brantley (5'11", 190), two relievers who were not very big who had an aggressive approach and became very successful. Medlen has that Bulldog approach that will help him overcome not being an overpowering figure on the mound. He gets the ball and pitches. He doesn't waste any time. He just jumps on the hill and goes at it.
You rarely hear scouts and coaches project young pitchers as closers, and therefore most label Medlen as a potential setup man in the big leagues. But with his stuff the possibility is there for Medlen to become a potential closer down the road.
2008 OUTLOOKMedlen will head back to start the season in Double-A Mississippi. He'll get the chance to be the closer, and the Braves would like to see Medlen show he's durable over the course of a full season. If he's successful there as he was in 2007, Medlen is going to be an option for a big league audition later in 2008. He is someone that should not be forgotten as an option for the Atlanta Braves this season. Medlen has just dominated at every level, and if he does it again this season he's going to get his chance at the highest level very soon.
ADDITIONAL STORY LINKSClick here for Kris Medlen's 2007 Player Profile
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.