You have to root for this guy, and not just because he can help the Braves. A tenth-round pick and only a part-time pitcher in college, Medlen worked his way into a major league rotation, only to blow out his elbow in the middle of the 2010 season. He missed nearly all of 2011, pitching mopup duty in a couple of games at the end of the year. Bobby was using him as a swingman (something Bobby rarely did) in 2010, Medlen starting 14 games and relieving in 17. He pitched better as a reliever (3.04) than a starter (3.86) largely because of home runs; he allowed 12 in 84 innings as a starter, but just one in 23 2/3 as a reliever. That may just be a fluke, and at any event most pitchers do better in relief than starting, because they don’t have to pace themselves.
Anyway, for a young starter that’s a pretty good ERA, and I have no reason to think that if he could stay healthy he could do that job and do it well. However, he is returning from an elbow injury, and the Braves have several starting pitching candidates whom they have rated ahead of him. So Kris will probably be in the bullpen. In 2009, I thought he looked like a potential bullpen ace, but his strikeout rate plummeted in 2010, from 9.6/9 to 6.9, and that’s not the profile of an eighth or ninth inning guy. However, in his minor league career his rate was 10.4, and I am going to guess that the low rate in 2010 was due to some combination of his changing role and his injury, or maybe just a fluke. I think he will fit in just fine with the top relievers and give the team the righthanded setup man — and depth — that they needed so desperately down the stretch last season. Long-term, I am still of the opinion that he can be a good mid-rotation starter, but I don’t know if that will happen in this organization.