Why Kris Medlen Would Be the Perfect Replacement for Brandon Beachy
Just over a week ago the Braves rotation was being led by Brandon Beachy, who was one of the best stories in all of baseball. Beachy signed with the Braves as an undrafted free agent and quickly worked his way up to the big league club. In just his second year he was tied for the National League lead in ERA and led the league in batting average against.
Then last weekend Beachy's elbow went and he has already undergone Tommy John Surgery, which will keep him out for the rest of the year and part of next year as well. The loss is huge to the Braves, who had some issues with the back end of their rotation already and couldn't afford to lose their best and most consistent pitcher.
While it's hard to move on from such a big injury, it must be done if the club wants to reach the playoffs this season. The Braves have plenty of internal options, from Jair Jurrjens and Todd Redmond, who had both been up following the injury, plus top prospect Julio Teheran and current reliever Kris Medlen.
This article takes a look at why Kris Medlen could be the best replacement for Beachy over the rest of the talented candidates.
Medlen's 2010 Season
One reason that Kris Medlen is an attractive option to fill Brandon Beachy's spot is because of the success he had in the rotation back in 2010, prior to his Tommy John Surgery. Overall in 2010, Medlen went 6-2 with a 3.68 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 14 starts and 17 relief appearances.
Medlen was just 24 years old in 2010, but that didn't stop him from going 5-0 In his 14 starts that year with a 3.68 ERA. Though he didn't rack up a ton of strikeouts, he did have a nice strikeout to walk ratio, and also pitched solid against all of the NL East teams.
While Medlen didn't dominate in 2010 he was solid as a young pitcher after being a highly thought of prospect coming up through the minors. Medlen looked like a good up-and-coming young pitcher, so giving him another shot could be very worthwhile, as he could give the Braves a consistent pitcher.
Julio Teheran Is Inconsistent in the Minors
Julio Teheran is a very popular candidate to take the spot in the starting rotation that was vacated when Brandon Beachy went down, but that shouldn't be a surprise. Teheran has been the Braves' top prospect for the last two seasons and after going 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA in Triple-A last year at just 20 years old, fans have eagerly been awaiting his arrival.
Teheran just hasn't been the same pitcher this year, going back to his awful showing in spring training. Even though he is 5-4 with a 3.50 ERA in Triple-A this season, he has struggled in nearly half of his 13 starts. His walks and batting average against are up, while the strikeouts are down from what he posted in 2011.
Teheran was excellent through four innings against Toronto in his one big league start this year, but he struggled in the fifth inning before getting a quick hook from manager Fredi Gonzalez. The silver lining there was that he looked dominant at times during the first four innings.
Teheran could probably come up to Atlanta today and post very respectable numbers for a 21-year-old rookie, but those numbers will have some poor starts included. Having an inconsistent Teheran as well as some other issues with the back end of the rotation just doesn't seem like the right answer for the 2012 Braves if they want to reach the playoffs.
Medlen Gets Ground Balls
Throughout his career Kris Medlen has been good at getting ground balls. In 2010 he managed a 1.15 ratio of ground ball outs to fly balls outs, which is just below his career 1.14 ratio. This year he has a career high 1.31 ratio, which is very strong considering a ratio of an even one is considered to be solid.
Why this is important is because the Braves have just switched up their shortstop in the last month. Gone is Tyler Pastornicky, who at times hurt the team with his glove. In his place is future Gold Glove Award winner Andrelton Simmons, a promising young player with great range and a big throwing arm.
Mixing in a pitcher who has proven he can get ground balls and a top-flight defender at short is always a good combination, and would be a major strength for the Braves.
Medlen Can Be Replaced in the Bullpen
One of the biggest reasons that people may be against the idea of moving Kris Medlen back to the rotation is because they believe it would create a hole in the Braves bullpen. Not only do they think it would create a hole, but they also believe that the Braves do not have the ability to fill this hole.
The Braves have one of the most talented bullpens in the league, led by star closer Craig Kimbrel and setup men Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty. Though Venters and O'Flaherty haven't been lights-out this year, each has done respectable and we know that they are capable of more. Cristhian Martinez is a solid pitcher and even Chad Durbin has been strong of late after an awful start to the year.
In Triple-A the Braves have rookie Cory Gearrin, one of their top relief prospects, who has been dominating minor league hitters this year after a strong spring performance. Gearrin has more than proven that he is ready for a real shot, but for some reason the Braves seem like they are a bit weary of trusting him.
That still leaves others like Yohan Flande, who was set to make the Braves out of spring training before the late-additions of Livan Hernandez and Chad Durbin, and Anthony Varvaro, who was solid in 2011 but has spent most of this year in the minors.
The Braves have the guys to replace Medlen in the bullpen, and there is a chance that Gearrin becomes a very strong reliever going forward. The bullpen shouldn't suffer with the loss of Medlen to the rotation.
Medlen Limits the Walks
This year Kris Medlen has walked an average of 2.1 hitters per nine innings pitched. That ratio is better than each of the six pitchers who have started a game for the Braves this year and ranks second among the pitchers who have pitched for the Braves this year, trailing only Cristhian Martinez's 1.7.
Medlen may have a career 2.5 walk rate, but that is partly inflated by the 4.0 rate he posted as a rookie. Medlen's walk rate this year is actually a drop off from the 1.8 rate he posted in 2010, including a 1.7 rate he posted as a starter.
Why this is important is because walks have cost the Braves. Part of why the back end of the rotation has been so inconsistent is because Mike Minor has a walk rate of 3.7, Randall Delgado 4.6 and Jair Jurrjens 4.1. Having a pitcher that doesn't put extra runners on base is something likely to help cut down on the runs allowed and create a bit more consistency.