Much has changed since the last time lefty Kodi Medeiros took the mound at Les Murakami Stadium in the Hawaii State Championship tournament. In 2012 the then sophomore spun a gem to push Waiakea high school into the title game en route to their first state championship in program history. He made a name for himself throughout the state of Hawaii that night, but he didn't become a well known name for the 2014 MLB Draft until he took the mound in the Metrodome in June of 2013 at the PG National Showcase. Fast forward 11 months and he's one of the most exciting and debated prospects in the entire 2014 draft.
Given the hectic nature of the draft schedule and the inherent geographical challenges, Medeiros has been seen only a handful of times this spring, while nearly every other projected first round selection has been followed much more closely. Thus, the final start on the mound of his high school career in the state tournament was an important one, and pulled a significant number of scouts away from the mainland during crunch time of draft preparation.
Adding to the intrigue was the fact that the pitching matchup saw Medeiros square off with the state's second best pitching prospect, RHP Jordan Yamamoto. Like Medeiros, Yamamoto was selected to the 2013 Area Code Games and got his name on the map as one of three draftable high school prospects from the state of Hawaii. He topped out at 90 mph at the Area Code Games in August, and has added some velocity in the nine months since. In this matchup Yamamoto topped out at 93 mph, working primarily in the 88-91 range. He showed a four pitch arsenal that included a quality slider that flashed bite at 78-82 as well as a deep 11-5 curveball in the mid 70s. He also threw a handful of changeups with sudden arm side fading action and threw plenty of strikes. While it's easy for a pitching prospect to be lost in the shuffle in a draft class chock full of mid and upper 90s flamethrowers, Yamamoto's athleticism and stuff give him a draftable prospect profile, though in many years he may have slipped through the cracks due to a lack of visibility among MLB decisions makers. But by matching up with Medeiros, Yamamoto was impossible to miss for the scouts who made the trip across half an ocean.
Videos of Yamamoto:
The game was a pitcher's duel, as expected. But ultimately, Yamamoto and St. Louis got the better of Medeiros' Waiakea Warriors, breaking the scoreless tie in the fifth and adding an insurance run in the sixth to pull a minor upset 2-0. Yamamoto and Medeiros both went the distance, with Medeiros yielding two earned runs on five hits (only two hits, both infield singles, before the fifth inning) with two walks and two hit batters with eight strikeouts. Yamamoto allowed two hits and two walks, striking out 10. For one rare night, Medeiros wasn't the best pitcher on the field. But in terms of prospect status, and with all due respect to Yamamoto, it's Medeiros by a landslide.
We've seen Medeiros up to 95 in the past and local scouts have reported that he's touched 96 at times this spring. In his playoff start he topped out at 94, and primarily worked in the 90-92 range through the first four innings, which has been his typical range in his heavily scouted showcase and tournament outings on the mainland. He made a huge impression during the showcase circuit for his plus slider with massive sweeping break that features very hard bite as well as plus tailing life on his fastball, and both of those assets were on display again in his final high school start.
He was already firmly established in the first round conversation heading into the spring because of the ability to manipulate the baseball during it's path to the strike zone, but in a class that is overflowing with power arms, the competition to stay in the first round is fierce. The first thing that jumps out about Medeiros' development is the addition of a mid-upper 80s cutter to his arsenal, which is relatively short and tight in comparison to his slider, and was his primary weapon for neutralizing right handers. He also utilized his changeup in the low-mid 80s later in the game and it was effective in spurts as well. The slider has added a couple of ticks of velocity since we last saw him in October, sitting in the 79-82 mph range today after typically showing a range of 77-80 in the past.
Video of Medeiros:
The one factor that Medeiros didn't get an opportunity to show on the showcase circuit was his ability to maintain his velocity for five plus innings. He slowly dipped as the game wore on, but would still hit 90-91 at times throughout the late innings, primarily working in the upper 80s. While it would have been very reassuring to see him hold his 90-92 range for a complete game, the dropoff was short and gradual. His command wasn't nearly as sharp in this outing as it has been at times in the past. For those with a high level of familiarity with him from the showcase circuit, this was a similar outing to his appearance at the Area Code Games, in that he showed quality stuff and executed when he needed, but wasn't sharp like he was at the PG National and PG All-American Classic. He still throws from two distinct arm slots as well, throwing the fastball from a lower three quarters slot and dipping down to nearly sidearm on the secondary offerings, something that his organization's player development department will begin to work on adjusting early on.
When you take his entire body of work into account, at various points within the draft process Medeiros has shown the following:
• 95-96 mph fastball with plus to plus-plus life and feel to it
• A present plus slider with severe break and the ability to throw it for strikes
• A quality mid 80s changeup that has been a weapon at times (particularly in Jupiter)
• A mid- to upper-80s cutter
The fact that he doesn't seem to be in serious consideration for a top 10 pick says a lot about the overall quality of pitching prospects in this draft class. If he makes it into the late first round he'll represent a potential steal if he reaches his stratospheric ceiling, and if he manages to slide all the way into the supplemental first round as some sources are predicting, the organization that lands him with their second pick ought to be doing backflips in the draft room.
While the inherent risks in selecting a high school pitcher with a first round pick are exacerbated by Medeiros' unorthodox profile, the potential payoff makes passing on him a significant risk in it's own right. There is a realistic chance the Medeiros transforms from unorthodox prospect to rare talent.