Burning Question: can he continue to start in professional ball?
Internet Hack’s Answer: Sure. Exciting answer, right? Arm slot and lack of physicality are both fair arguments for the “he’s a reliever” crowd, but pitchers with his kind of stuff should be stretched out and given as many chances as possible to continue starting in the pros. I doubt that response is going to help those who think I’m overly simplistic in my approach to looking at draft talent, but I’m always going to err on the side of “hey, let’s not complicate things, alright?” whenever given the choice. Medeiros has great stuff. He’s gotten great results. He’s a good athlete who is very comfortable being the kind of pitcher he is. Draft him high and let him do this thing. I think he can start, others think he have to relieve; I’m not so baseball stupid to realize that there’s a wide value gap between starting pitchers and relievers, so drafting him too high only to see him up in the pen would be a disappointment on some level, true. It’s just amazing to me that in all the people I’ve talked to, all the smart people who obsess about the draft online all year long, and all the voices inside my own head that won’t shut up when I see Medeiros pitch, I haven’t heard or read or imagined a single person who doubted whether or not Medeiros will consistently get hitters out one day at the big league level. Starter or reliever? Fair question. Will he get guys out? Please, do you really have to ask? For any high school pitcher, that’s an amazing compliment. For a low arm slot 6-0, 180 pound lefthander from Hawaii, it’s really something.
My “not a comp” comparison in terms of recent amateur pitchers with similar general profiles is current Astros minor leaguer Lance McCullers. The righthanded McCullers didn’t have quite the same arm slot questions — hence the “not a comp” caveat — but I think in terms of raw stuff, physical stature, and the overarching “can he or can’t he start?” narrative, it fits. McCullers had a little more giddyup on the fastball (Medeiros sits 88-93, touches 94-95), but Medeiros’ overall fastball grades out very similarly thanks to his uncanny inability (in a good way) to throw any fastball on a direct line to home plate. The young lefty has movement you can’t teach, and it helps an already very good fastball work as plus to plus-plus. Couple that with a wipeout 78-83 slider (a tick softer than McCullers’, yet no less devastating), a surprisingly effective changeup (78-85, above-average upside but will flash plus presently on occasion), and an eagerness to establish ownership on the inner-half of the plate, and you’ve got yourself a first round talent. The “not a comp” comp McCullers’ draft selection — supplemental first, 41st overall — represents a good ballpark draft range (give or take a few picks) for Medeiros.
I could end things here. We’ve at least partially addressed the concerns surround Medeiros, we’ve covered what he throws, and we’ve even offered up a half-hearted yet not awful (I’m not humble, clearly) frame of reference in the person of Lance McCullers. I could end things here, but I can’t. I’ve spent more time away from the site thinking about Medeiros than any other player in this entire draft class. He’s quite easily in my personal top ten most fascinating 2014 MLB Draft prospects to watch going forward. I can sometimes get so wrapped up in this little draft world that I fail to check in enough on how certain guys are doing in pro ball — though I happened to see today that Curt Casali was tearing up AA, damn near brought a tear to my eye — but you can be sure I’ll follow Medeiros no matter where he lands.
The arm slot thing is what gets me, mostly because I didn’t really care all that much about arm slot as recently as six months ago. I’m not sure I necessarily care now — the homework that I’ve done has led me to my personal conclusion that, like a pitcher’s mechanics in general, any arm slot can be effective in any role as long as the pitcher is comfortable with it — but I do find the mountain of available research on the topic pretty darn interesting. I realize I’m years late to this, but I can’t tell you how many hours have been lost these last few months thanks to the work done at Texas Leaguers and Brooks Baseball. Anytime you find something online that makes you a little bit mad you weren’t smart enough to figure out on your own — I’m pathetic when it comes to technology, so those kinds of data pulls are nothing short of miraculous to me — you know you’ve found something worthwhile. Between my own research and a few helpful contacts around the game, the arm slot/stuff comps I’ve heard that I find most instructive are Jake Diekman, a shorter Rich Hill, and, even though he was used for Brady Aiken already, Madison Bumgarner. Interesting group.
Three more fun names I’ll throw out there, more about stuff and potential pro impact than release point: Francisco Liriano, Scott Kazmir, and Jose Quintana. I don’t mean to dilute the already suspect nature of prospect/player comparisons, but I see a lot of Medeiros in a lot of different guys. It happens. The fact that none of the three come all that close from an arm slot perspective bugs me, but the stuff and stature of each guy feels on point. I think any of those three could be fair representations of Medeiros’ ceiling as a starting pitcher (Quintana is my favorite, I think) while a potentially dominant reliever like Diekman should be the floor.