Kris Medlen: Fantasy NL Turtle

By true definition, at least by Aesop’s fables, the turtle represents the old adage, “slow and steady wins the race.” By our definition, at least how Eno laid it out, the fantasy turtle is the best buy-low/waiver pick-up that dominated in the second half of the season. While some of our awards were fairly unanimous, this one wasn’t, as nine players received votes. Again, the title of the piece tells you that Kris Medlen won, but let’s look a little further into it.

Here’s how the voting went:

Kris Medlen  (7)
Ryan Zimmerman  (2)
Rickie Weeks  (2)
Aramis Ramirez  (1)
Ike Davis  (1)
Adam Wainwright  (1)
Garrett Jones  (1)
Allen Craig  (1)
Carlos Gomez  (1)

So as you can see, the majority of us had Medlen tabbed for this award while the rest were split for a variety of reasons. While I did not vote for Medlen on my ballot, I can easily see why he was such a popular choice. Throughout the first half of the season, Medlen pitched out of the Atlanta pen, making a total of 31 appearances. Over 42.2 innings, he amassed a 2.95 ERA with a 25:9 K:BB, leaving him with a 5.27 K/9.  He was solid, but certainly not dominant.

In the second half though, Medlen was flat-out ridiculous.  He began the second half in the pen again, but towards the end of July, was inserted into the rotation and it was there that he thrived. In total, he made 19 appearances after the All Star break (12 starts) and went 9-0 with a 0.94 ERA and a 95:14 K:BB over 95.1 innings which pushed his K/9 to an impressive 8.97. The difference in the type of pitcher he blossomed into was amazing, and he was a major reason the Braves ended up in the NL Wild Card game, in which he was given the start.

Fantasy owners who either picked Medlen up off waivers or traded for him in the second half were handsomely rewarded. Was the move a stroke of genius? Not really, if you had an inkling that he might land in the rotation. Medlen has always been regarded as a strong pitching prospect and has enjoyed success at every level he’s played. His time in the majors has been a learning experience to start, but he was never one to be labeled as a guy who just wasn’t going to get it. So while yes, in fantasy this season, he was a dream in the second half and wasn’t really on the mainstream radar, competitive league owners were in the know. I can understand why some considered him a buy-low, but I saw him more as a solid arm with strong potential on whom I was willing to take a chance.

Personally, my vote went to Carlos Gomez, who is normally an afterthought in fantasy circles unless you’re looking for cheap speed. However, this season, Gomez took a step forward, that I actually thought he would take last year. His first half looked like typical Gomez as he hit just .233 with five home runs, 18 RBI and 11 stolen bases. His OBP was an unimpressive .280 and he was, again, sharing time in the outfield. But the second half began and Gomez officially arrived. He batted .278 with an improved .321 OBP and knocked 14 home runs with 33 RBI and 26 stolen bases. Night and day? I’d say so. To me, he was a great buy-low/waiver pick up as no one expected to see this type of an outburst. If you picked him up in a trade, he was barely a throw-in; a body to keep a roster spot warm. For that, he was my turtle and actually helped me to two titles this year.

As for the others receiving votes, they all have their own stories and also valid reasons for garnering votes here. Craig was actually the true turtle as he missed April with an injury and then steadily banged five home runs with 16-20 RBI in each of his first four months. Very steady, however, he did taper off a bit in September. Zimmerman, Ramirez and Weeks shrugged off their lousy first half totals and finished strong, although none really lived up to where they were drafted this year. Wainwright just needed some time to bounce back from surgery, Davis needed to power through some valley fever, and Jones finally started to figure out left-handed pitching. All of them had much stronger second halves and for some owners, they were fantasy saviors.

The hare may get all the attention up front, but it’s the turtle that always seems to find himself in the winner’s circle in the end.


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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site,, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at

6 Responses to “Kris Medlen: Fantasy NL Turtle”

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  1. KJ says:

    I have to agree with you Howard. Medlen is the easy pick, but I think you’re right in that Gomez’ turnaround was more pronounced. Medlen probably gets some extra oomph since he was likely the key part of the Braves making it to the post-season.

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  2. dougiejays says:

    I picked up almost all of these guys in my low-traffic league (added Medlen, Craig, Wainwright, Gomez and drafted Weeks and Zimmerman) but my best buy-low guy was probably Encarnacion. It was a shallow league, but it wasn’t a shock to find him on the wire in April based on his inconsistency. By August, he was Can’t-Cut.

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  3. dougiejays says:

    In other news, I’m an idiot.

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  4. JMN says:

    I understand Medlen, but how come no votes for his teammate Mike Minor who dropped two full runs off his season ERA with his nearly as dominant second half?

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    • Papa Tootski says:

      First: Because Minor was not dominant. He had elite ERA and WHIP post-ASB but meanwhile went 6-4 and posted ~7.5 K/9, about league average. He did not have a double-digit strikeout game all season.
      Medlen went 9-0 post ASB and <1 ERA, which was beyond elite, it was otherwordly, and broke Bob Gibson's record from the 1960s. He had ~9 K/9 and posted games of 12 and 13 Ks in September, i.e. in the fantasy playoffs.
      Second: Minor was on people's radars, especially in keeper leagues. He had a guaranteed rotation spot, very recent top-25 prospect status, and is a lefty in the NL. This very site, quoting xFIP, had Minor pegged as a "sleeper." He therefore was a popular mid-round pick and you likely didn't luck into him. Correspondingly we had some expectations for Minor so when he started slowly, owners hung onto him just in case he picked it back up–we'd seen plenty of Minors before–and sure enough he did acquit himself. Conversely, Medlen likely wasn't drafted in any league except maybe TJ survivors only leagues and sat on waivers 'til he found himself taking Hanson's spot, at which time the savvy among us took a "flier" on him. He was on virtually nobody's radar and all you had to do was drop a dead-weight (like my Freddy Garcia). So, if he had put up the exact same stats as Minor post-ASB, he'd still be the better value and perhaps still first in Turtle Award [TM] voting.

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  5. don says:

    i’m taking a gamble on gomez.

    carlos gomez hit 19 HR in just 435 AB. i see this guy as a 20HR/30+SB guy, yet he’s valued at 0$ on rotochamp?

    plus with that lineup and the possibility of PED’s being shared in that clubhouse, this guy is a sort of sleeper. look at his age too, he is just coming into his own. silly to base average and such on what he did before hitting a physical stride. this guy was traded for johan santana. he is skilled, very fast and now suddenly strong. he is Drew Stubbs/BJ Upton but with a .020 higher average. most underrated player in rotochamp rankings. he will score significantly more R and hit for a higher average than suggested here. he will also hit a few more HR, all while stealing 30+ bags with ease.

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