Judo Star Medeiros Is A Hit On The Mound

Lefthander Kodi Medeiros possesses some of the nastiest stuff in a draft class loaded with pitching depth, and his unconventional delivery and hometown make him arguably the most unique high school player in the 2014 draft.

The Waiakea High (Hilo, Hawaii) product has a chance to be the highest drafted high school player in Hawaii history, a distinction held by Bronson Sardinha, who was drafted 34th overall in 2001.

Hawaiian high school ace Kodi Medeiros has risen up draft boards with an unusual mix of pitches.

Hawaiian high school ace Kodi Medeiros has risen up draft boards with an unusual mix of pitches.

Unlike Sardinha, who comes from a baseball family, Medeiros began playing baseball through unlikely means.

Medeiros and his older brother Korin demonstrated tremendous aptitude for judo at a young age and the sport became their primary athletic focus. Kodi Medeiros started judo when he was 5 years old and captured a silver medal at the 2004 U.S. Judo Federation Junior Nationals as an 8 year old. Korin, who is two years older than Kodi, won a gold medal at the same event.

“The judo awards and medals that family owns is incredible between Kodi and his brother," a National League scout said. “They are borderline-Olympic talents as judo athletes. Korin, in fact, had he not wanted to focus on baseball would have went to the Olympic qualifiers."

The brother's focus began to turn to baseball the year after winning their medals.

“I never really wanted to play baseball growing up but it all started with a deal with my brother and his friend," Medeiros said. “They agreed that if my brother played baseball for a year that his friend would have to do judo for a year. So when my brother went to play baseball for that year I wanted to play too.

“My brothers' coach said 'Why don't you play an exhibition game for us?' I played an exhibition game and then the following year I fell in love with the game and have loved to play the game ever since."

Local pitching coach and former minor league lefthander Jerry Meyer took notice of Kodi Medeiros when he was 10 and took him under his wing. The two have worked together ever since, with at least two sessions a week.

Medeiros didn't pitch much as a freshman but become an impact player as a sophomore on the first state championship team in school history, pitching the state semifinal game.

Although Medeiros's team won the senior division of the Little League World Series in Maine when he was 15, his national exposure was limited after he missed most of his junior year due to injury. He made his first stateside showcase appearance at Perfect Game National in Minneapolis in June. The event kicked off the summer showcase circuit and Medeiros was the first pitcher to take the Metrodome mound. He impressed immediately.

“From my sophomore year I until the time I went to Perfect Game National I had one scholarship offer that was from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, which was a fifty percent scholarship," Medeiros said. “Before I went to PGN I told my family that I wanted to attend college on the mainland and I got 23 offers after that event."

Fastball On The Move

A Pepperdine commit, Medeiros loudly put himself on the draft map, brandishing nasty stuff that is as uncommon as the way he produces it. The lefthander has a 90-93 mph fastball that touches 96. He has easy arm action with a high path in the back before the ball jumps out of his hand from a low three-quarters arm slot.

“I have always thrown from that slot," Medeiros said. “It is a low three-quarter slot, just above sidearm. It was just natural to me. I get really good movement when I throw my two-seam fastball."

His arm slot and ability to work over the baseball produces plus arm-side run and sink, if not plus-plus.

“It is easy life plus, plus-plus at times. It is hard, late run that will consistently break wooden bats at the next level," the scout said.

Hitters on the showcase circuit almost universally said Medeiros was the toughest pitcher they have faced in their careers. His fastball produces so much movement umpires often sat behind the catcher between innings, a rare move, in an attempt to get a handle on his stuff.

Medeiros is likely to have extreme groundball tendencies at the professional level and hitters rarely lifted the ball against him. TrackMan, which uses military-grade technology to quantitatively measure what scouts gauge qualitatively, supports what the scouts see as a heavy, groundball-inducing fastball.

Medeiros, a devotee of the Jaeger long toss program, gets good extension out front and even though he is 6-foot-1 his fastball extension is just two inches shy of major league average.

“I started to talk to Alan last February over the phone and looked at videos,” Medeiros said. “I was fortunate to meet up with him two days before the Area Code Games, when I met him for the first time. I did a good long toss with him and he tweaked what I did just a little bit, which really helped a lot. It was great to have an individual workout with Alan. I have been doing lots of long toss. I believe in that program with the bands and the arm.”

“Kodi has incredible talent and is an incredibly hard worker,” Jaeger said. “He was going a great job with the long toss program and then we just made a small tweak and it really helped him. His stamina and ability to get extension out front have improved.”

His slider is a wipeout offering with 3-7 tilt that scouting directors voted the best breaking ball in the high school class during the preseason. At its best, it is a 70-grade offering. The reaction Eric Byrnes had when he saw Medeiros' slider while announcing the PG All-American Classic speaks to the offering's depth and tilt.

“Whoa! What was that? That pitch should be illegal," Byrnes said. “We need to get the research guys to pull out the angles and figure out exactly how far that thing broke."

Medeiros also has a changeup that shows plus potential with tremendous tumble. To get the ball in on the hands of righthanded hitters, Medeiros developed a cut fastball this offseason that plays in the upper-80s and shows above-average potential.

While his stuff is immense, some scouts wonder how his low arm slot will play in the rotation, as there are few major league starters that throw from such low slots because of the greater platoon splits from lower angles. But the short list of low-slot lefthanded starters includes two of the better pitchers in baseball, Chris Sale and Madison Bumgarner. Scouts say Medeiros has some similar attributes to both, though their body types are vastly different and his arm slot is a tick lower.

“I like to watch Bumgarner because his mechanics are similar to mine," Medeiros said. “And I like to watch Sale to see the way he uses his slider that has similar break to mine."

A key to Medeiros remaining in the rotation will be maintaining his velocity deeper into games after falling into the high-80s , which has improved in the later part of the season.

Most prep pitchers face questions about their ability to throw strikes to remain in the rotation and Medeiros is no different.

“He has been throwing more strikes later in the season, but his stuff can move so much it can be tough to harness," the scout said. “But he still hasn't had much mound time compared to others guys and he has aptitude."

At 6-foot-1, 191 pounds, Medeiros has an athletic build with lean strength throughout.

“He is a lot bigger and stronger than you think," the scout said. “He has some girth and is country strong. He has impressive strength through his chest and shoulders and he has really muscular legs. He has natural strength to go along with baseball strength and judo strength."

He has drawn physical comparisons to the second-highest draft prep lefthander in Hawaian history, Onan Masaoka (third round), a strongly built 6-foot, 188-pounder who attended the same high school as Medeiros.

In an industry that is comforted by convention, the unique Medeiros is an “eye of the beholder” player who is in play in the mid-first round and could also be a prime target for a team with a late-first round pick or compensation selection.