After the final out was recorded in Sunday’s tilt between the high Class A Brewers and Indians, lefthander Kodi Medeiros knew exactly what he wanted to do.
The 12th overall pick in the 2014 draft made a beeline for an area between the two back fields at Cleveland’s minor league complex, found three friends and asked a reporter to snap a photo of them together.
And the bond gets deeper than that.
Torres-Costa went to the same high school—Waiakea—as Medeiros. Carter went to the their rival school, Hilo. Yamamoto went to a different school—St. Louis High on Honolulu—but still shares the bond.
“We’ve been getting pretty big on baseball,” Medeiros said, referring to his home state. “A lot of guys have been getting drafted and opening doors, so I think a lot of guys from Hawaii are trying a lot harder and really working hard.”
Sunday was Medeiros’ first outing of the spring, and he flashed the stuff that earned him a $2.5 million bonus two Junes ago. Medeiros slings the ball from a low three-quarters slot and brings a fastball in the low-90s that touched 95 mph on Sunday.
When it’s going right, the ball digs quick and deep in on righthanders, which generates grounders by the bushel. He’s also the owner of a slider and a changeup, both of which were rusty on Sunday. When it’s on, the slider garners above-average grades. The changeup has average potential as well.
He also boasts above-average athleticism on the mound. Part of that can be attributed to a childhood spent practicing judo. He stopped when he became serious about going pro as a baseball player, but he attained the rank of brown belt before giving it up.
Even so, he sees the benefits of martial arts on his career.
“It gives me a lot of discipline and self-confidence,” he said. “It helped me a lot growing up, but I’ve kind of strayed away from it ever since I turned professional in baseball.”
But the ground ball is his hallmark. With low Class A Wisconsin in 2015, he put forth a ratio of more than three grounders for every fly ball. In fact, through his first two starts, Medeiros, the No. 6 prospect in the Brewers’ system, induced 20 groundouts without yielding a fly out. In all of April, just two of his outs came through the air. He didn’t allow a home run all year.
Brewers farm director Tom Flanagan said that Medeiros’ anti-air tendencies have jokingly led them to consider a dramatic shift when he pitches.
“I kind of half jokingly threw it out there about going with a five-man infield and a two-man outfield,” Flanagan said, “because he induces some of the worst swings, righty or lefty, that you see off of guys. Balls are beaten into the ground and have English on them.”
He also notes that, while strikeouts are sexier, getting batters to beat the ball into the dirt is advantageous for someone with eyes on a rotation spot in Milwaukee in a few years.
“If I’m more efficient getting grounders and quick outs, getting innings going and getting ahead,” he said, “and just getting quick outs, I’ll take that any day over anything else.”
Medeiros was part of a tandem last year at Wisconsin with righthander David Burkhalter. The pair alternated between starting and relieving, and Medeiros finished with 16 starts against nine appearances out of the bullpen.
“I always feel like I’ve been able to get in my groove when I start,” he said, explaining why he prefers that role to relieving. “When I start, I’m able to establish my stuff. I’ll choose starting any day.”
BACK FIELDS FILES
On the other side of the matchup with Medeiros was Cleveland lefty Justus Sheffield, the No. 4 prospect in their system. He was selected 19 picks after Medeiros, in the supplemental first round of the 2014 draft and given a $1.6 million bonus.
On Sunday, it was easy to see why.
Sheffield used a whip-quick arm to run his fastball up to 95 mph. More impressively, he was aggressive inside with the pitch, which showed easily noticeable explosiveness. He coupled the pitch with a curveball and changeup which each got swings and misses as he cut through the Milwaukee lineup with ease and efficiency.