The Braves have gotten some stellar performances from a few unlikely places the past few weeks, Paul Maholm and Kris Medlen. With a rotation that was expected to be among the deepest in the league, the fact that Medlen and Maholm are in the rotation to begin with is a surprise, but it is an even bigger surprise that they are performing as well as they have. I documented Maholm’s success and potential future success in Atlanta yesterday, so today I will look at where I believe Medlen fits into the Braves plans.
For fantasy teams, him staying in the rotation down the stretch run could have huge implications for owners. I think the Braves will do just that. Coming off Tommy John surgery and throwing only a few innings at the tail end of last year, Medlen was on an innings limit this year which the Braves seriously did not want to exceed. The plan all along was for Medlen to enter the rotation down the tail end of the year. While it looks like he was inserted into the rotation because of struggles and injuries, this plan was expected from the start. Unless all of the rotation members performed to expectations and stayed healthy the entire year, Medlen was going to get into the rotation at some point. I don’t see his entrance as a reactionary move, rather more of a planned inserting.
His performance as a rotation member will make it extremely hard for the Braves to pull him, as he has a 1.05 ERA over 25.2 innings, including last night’s complete game shutout of the Padres. He has not faced the best competition, but he has not allowed more than one run in any of his four starts so far. Adding to that, the Braves have won 14 straight starts by Medlen, tied for the most in franchise history. While I do not personally value that statistic too heavily, I imagine the coaching staff and front office at least slightly care about it. Tommy Hanson has certainly not been himself this year, mostly due to a drop in velocity, and he could be the odd man out once they transfer back to a five man rotation. For now, the plan is to stay in a six man rotation, and the only three possibilities to be sent to the minors or into the bullpen are Medlen, Hanson, or Mike Minor. Both Minor and Medlen have performed very well as of late, so the target is now square on Hanson’s back to perform.
For the future, I believe the Braves will look to make Medlen a permanent rotation member. This gives Medlen some value in keeper and dynasty leagues, if that is made certain. Of course, most keeper and dynasty leagues allow for the selections to be made close to the start of next year, so a more clear picture will be painted of his role by then. But if the trade deadline has not been reached in your league, taking a risk on buying Medlen as a future starter looks like a good one to me. He is not a top tier starter by any means, but he combines extremely good command of three pitches with the ability to get both lefties and righties out. The Braves do not have much in terms of right-handed relievers or relief prospects, but their future rotation also looks a lot different now than it did earlier in the season. If he finishes off the year well, I expect Medlen to start next year in the rotation as well with an extended innings limit.