A lot of uncertainty surrounds a pitcher coming back from Tommy John surgery. As past victims have told it, it's about regaining a feel for the ball. As analysts have shown it, walk rates sometimes come into the picture as the pitcher struggles to regain control.
Therefore, penciling in Kris Medlen for anything more than a relief role could be risky. But to me, Medlen is the best choice to fill in for Tim Hudson until Hudson returns from back surgery in late April or early May.
One, Medlen has been there. I know Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado have major league innings, but Medlen threw 107.2 innings in 2010 and was very effective, recording a 3.68 ERA, 3.78 FIP and 3.49 xFIP. His walk rate was a VERY good 4.8%, and he had a solid mix of 19 K% and 42.9 GB%.
Medlen's strength has always been control, evident by a 5.5% walk rate in 120.1 innings at Double-A at 22 years old. So regaining a feel for the strike zone is perhaps more important to Medlen than for a pitcher who might rely on better stuff. But if Medlen is able to rebound from the surgery and prove just as effective as he was prior, the spot should be his.
Building off the fact that Medlen has more experience than Teheran and Delgado is that having Medlen in there provides the least amount of risk of the three options. Yes, Teheran and Delgado are both immensely talented arms, but let's face it, they're young and could require a learning curve. If I'm looking for the best numbers in a month of starts, I'm going with Medlen.
All three options come with their share of risks. Medlen could respond poorly in his return off the bat, while Teheran and Delgado could stumble out of the gate knowing the job is theirs for a month. Then again, all three are talented and should succeed if given the opportunity. It's a nice problem to have.
We have a little bit of early knowledge from Florida on the topic, as David O'Brien reported that Medlen is being looked at as more of a Plan B for the rotation right now. I hope hype isn't driving this decision. For a full month, the Braves need to start the arm that can give them the best numbers. I feel Medlen should be the answer.