When the Milwaukee Brewers selected Hawaiian prep left-hander Kodi Medeiros with the 12th overall pick in the 2014 draft, most publicly known scouts and evaluators gave the pick the side eye. Some may forget that part of the plan was to save some of the Medeiros slot money in order to sign Jake Gatewood and Monte Harrison, but even with that in mind there was plenty of skepticism as to why Medeiros specifically was the player selected. He had performed well enough in showcases and against his high school competition, but most scouts had him pegged as a him as a reliever from the get-go. Here’s an excerpt of his BP annual comment from the year he was drafted and made his Rookie-level debut:
“[C]onsidering his unorthodox sidearm delivery and slight build, some doubt Medeiros will be anything but a reliever in the future. The skeptics see an arm slot that will be too appetizing for right-handers, and a delivery that will buckle under a 200-inning workload. With that said, the delivery funk and dancing stuff suggest a safe floor as a major-league reliever.”
The Brewers challenged Medeiros with an assignment to full season ball the next year at age 19, and he more than held his own in the Midwest League while throwing for the Class-A Timber Rattlers in Appleton. The Brewers were understandably cautious with his workload, allowing him to pitch only a total of 93.3 innings across 25 appearances (16 starts). In those innings, though, he produced a 2.95 ERA and 3.05 DRA, struck out 94 batters, kept his walks under control (3.9 BB/9), and didn’t allow one single home run while holding opponents to a .240 TAv.
That success led the Brewers to promote Medeiros to Class-A Advanced Brevard County for his age-20 season in 2016, which proved to be a much more difficult assignment for the southpaw. Medeiros suffered through some back issues that began early in the season and saw his stuff back up as a result. His fastball velocity was down and he got hit around quite a bit in the Florida State League, coughing up a 5.93 ERA while logging only 85.0 innings. His peripherals were even uglier; Medeiros couldn’t miss bats and almost doubled his walk rate from 2015, leading to a nearly identical 64:63 K/BB ratio. The older competition of the league crushed him to the tune of a .312 TAv and his WHIP was approaching 2.00 by the end of the season. Medeiros’ DRA checked in at a hideous 10.45 on the season, which was some 33 percent worse than the league average.
Naturally Kodi repeated the level once again in 2017, but this time was suiting up for Milwaukee’s new affiliate, the Carolina Mudcats of the Carolina League. This time around, things went quite a bit better. He stayed healthy throughout the year and was able to cross the 100 inning threshold for the first time as a professional, tallying 128.3 frames by season’s end while making 27 appearances (18 starts). His stuff ticked back up; according to Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs, his fastball was back consistently in the 91-94 MPH range. Additionally, the southpaw was back to missing bats (8.5 K/9) and while holding his opposition to a .257 TAv. Most importantly, Medeiros was able to find the strike zone again with some consistency, lowering his walk rate all the way back down to 3.7 BB/9. This helped lead to a much more palatable 1.31 WHIP. His 4.98 ERA doesn’t jump off the page, but DRA saw a major improvement over his work from the previous season.
Thus far, Kodi has been able to build off that positive momentum this spring. “He’s really jumped forward here in camp,” farm director Tom Flanagan recently told Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. “His ball moves so much. Nothing ends up where he starts it, so he kind of gotten a handle on that at some point last year and he’s brought that into camp. We’re excited to see him once the games fire up over here.” The Brewers will continue to develop Medeiros as a starter, and he’ll begin the 2018 season by moving up to Class-AA Biloxi:
For @BiloxiShuckers fans, the tentative plan looks like Adrian Houser and Kodi Medeiros in a tandem to begin the season. Houser an inning or two to start, then Medeiros as long as he can go. Pretty good 1-2 punch in terms of raw stuff.
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) March 22, 2018
Medeiros failed to rank in Baseball Prospectus’ updated Brewers top prospect list and didn’t garner a mention within others of note, but he is still ranked in the expanded lists from Fangraphs (#21) and MLB Pipeline (#20). Neither outlet seems convinced that the lefty will be able to remain a starter, with Pipeline citing his “unique arm slot and underwhelming control profile” while Longenhagen notes “his arm slot allows righties to see the ball early and he doesn’t yet have a viable changeup to disrupt their timing.” The change receives average to fringe-average grades and both outlets slapped a below-average grade of 40 on his control, but they also agree that Medeiros could be a highly effective reliever at the MLB level. “He could be a dominant LOOGY, especially if his fastball plays up out of the bullpen,” notes Longenhagen, and the Pipeline scouts co-sign with “it’s widely agreed on that Medeiros will have impact potential in a big league bullpen.”
The Brewers have little to lose by keeping Medeiros in a starter’s role for now, given that Josh Hader showed us last year that the conversion to dominating fireman reliever can be made relatively quickly. Like Hader, Medeiros will need to continue developing his change-of-pace and refine his mechanics and command if he’s to become a long-term starter. But it’s nice knowing that if he does need to convert to relief, a trail has already been blazed for Medeiros by an extremely similar pitcher, both in body type (Hader stands 6’3″ and weighs 185 lbs) and pitching profile (a plus fastball/slider combo from a sidearm slot with developing command and changeup).
Kodi Mederios’ career may not be moving as quickly as some may have hoped when he was tabbed in the first round back in 2014, but nearly four years later entering his age-22 season, it isn’t difficult to see his path to the big leagues. We’ll close this piece with one last bit of praise from Tom Flanagan:
“Last year, some of the stats at a quick glance might not wow people, but to our staff, the velocity was really good. He really dominated stretches of games. This would be his first Spring Training had he gone to college and he’s going to be somewhere in that Double-A rotation…It’s just a matter of his confidence catching up to his talent.”