ZEBULON, N.C.—Most baseball parents want their sons to grow up lefthanded. Some even joke about tying their right arm behind their back in order to “force” lefthandedness. Kodi Medeiros‘ parents did the opposite. Kodi was born a lefty, but his mom and dad went out of their way to try to make him a righthander.
They succeeded, but not completely.
“Growing up, my parents told me I was just dominant lefty and then they tried to switch me over to become righty and the only thing that didn’t switch was throwing a baseball and hitting a baseball,” he said. “Everything else switched over to being righty. I’ll kick a football righthanded, play ping-pong righthanded, shoot a gun righthanded. Everything (else) is righthanded.”
The Brewers took Medeiros out of high school in Hawaii in the first round of the 2014 draft on the strength of his dominant left arm and the low-90s fastballs it produced. He signed for $2.5 million, and then watched as he began to ascend through the minor leagues.
His calling card throughout his career has been the grounders generated by his fastball, which has jumped into the 92-94 mph range with peaks as high as 97. The pitch, thrown from a low slot with tremendous bite in on righthanders, a career groundout-to-flyout ratio of better than 2-to-1. With low Class A Wisconsin in 2015, that figure was better than 3-to-1.
And although he got roughed up for six runs in 3.1 innings on Tuesday evening in the second game of Carolina’s doubleheader against Lynchburg, there were plenty of signs there to show why the Brewers value Medeiros so highly.
His fastball sat between 92-94 mph and peaked at 95 with the same vicious angle and boring action that he’s used to keep infielders busy throughout his career. His two offspeed pitches—a curveball and a changeup—are both slightly below-average now but have the potential to be slightly above-average in the future with repetition and improved consistency.
“(He has) plus stuff. When he is on, he is on,” Mudcats manager Joe Ayrault said. “It’s legit. A mid-90s fastball, good breaking ball and change. When he’s on, all I can say is he’s really, really good.”
Medeiros’ undoing on Tuesday wasn’t his stuff but his command. He missed his spots often in the first inning, and Lynchburg reached him for four early runs. He threw up zeroes in the second and third innings, but had to be relieved in the fourth inning after allowing another run on two hits.
Mechanical inconsistency has been a problem for Medeiros all of his career. It reached an apex last year with high Class A Brevard County (the Brewers have since relocated that affiliate into the Carolina League), where he walked 6.8 batters per nine innings.
Medeiros said wasn’t opening up fully during his delivery and he was throwing across his body, which caused him land closed and leave his arm dragging his behind his body. The results were a lot of balls left outside and a sharp drop in velocity.
At that point, Medeiros began to question himself.
“Toward the end of last year, from the second half until the end of last year, my mechanics got away from me and I started walking a lot of guys,” he said. “My velo started dropping and it was just really tough. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. It was just a tough point for me in my career, and I was very confused about where my velo went.
“When I first came into pro ball I was throwing like 90-91 because I wasn’t used to a five-day rotation, but last year all of a sudden I lost my velocity. It was just so confusing. Now this year I’ve come back throwing like myself and I feel like I’ve found my delivery again. Now I’ve just got to get ahead early and get my breaking ball in there.”
With his velocity back to levels with which he is comfortable, the 20-year-old Medeiros can continue to focus on putting his pitches where he wants them. Harnessing command of a repertoire is a challenge for any pitcher, but an arsenal with life like Medeiros’ requires special attention.
“He’s not going to be, per se, a command guy, just because he gets so much movement on his ball,” Mudcats pitching coach Dave Chavarria said. “Right now, he’s learning how the ball is moving and trying to control it in the zone more. It’s a process. It’s tough for a young kid at times, but when he does learn it it’s going to be pretty good.”
The numbers might not show it yet, but stuff is still there for Brewers fans to be intrigued about the future of Kodi Medeiros.
NEWS AND NOTES
• Lynchburg shortstop Willi Castro collected three hits in the doubleheader and has five hits in his last three games after going 2-for-23 to begin his season. He will turn 20 years old next week.
• Third baseman Lucas Erceg returned to the Carolina lineup after missing two games with the flu. Milwaukee’s second-round pick out of Menlo (Calif.) went 1-for-3 in his return and is hitting .306/.342/.389 so far this season.
• Jacob Gatewood, who doubled three times on Sunday afternoon, is wearing contact lenses this season. He’s working on refining his approach at the plate as well, and is hitting .310/.420/.476 this season while playing first base.