In case you missed all of the excitement this morning, the Chicago Cubs traded catcher Welington Castillo to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for righty reliever Yoervis Medina. A Castillo trade had been expected since David Ross signed on to be the primary backup catcher back in December. Given that the Cubs had three catchers on the 25-man roster and a struggling, taxed bullpen, getting a reliever in return for Castillo seems to make some sense. But because Medina isn’t an especially good or recognizable player, most of us don’t know much about him. So, let’s look into his career and get to know the Cubs’ newest pitcher, Yoervis Medina.
Signed by the Mariners as a 17-year old starter out of Venezuela, Medina, now 26, is a big right-handed reliever, standing at 6’3” 245 lbs. He made his way slowly through the Mariners system, while showing a mix of promise (good velocity) and caution (poor control).
After starting the 2013 season as reliever in AAA, Medina made his big league debut with the Mariners in April of 2013. Over the 137 innings since then, he has has a 2.82 ERA (3.74 FIP), with a 23.7 K%, 12.7 BB%, 81.9 LOB%, 51.5 GB%, and a .276 BABIP. You can read much more about Medina’s career in this detailed piece at Lookout Landing. Presently, Medina is a fastball (two and four-seamers)/curveball guy.
As you can see, Medina has been the benefactor of some very good results (2.82 ERA), despite some admittedly poor performance (12.7 BB%). He is likely due for some regression, though, given the super low BABIP (especially for a groundball pitcher) and his LOB% is about 7 percentage points higher than all other relievers from 2013-2015.
While he showed good velocity throughout his first two seasons in MLB – fastball topping out at 97MPH, while regularly sitting around 95 MPH, per FanGraphs – Medina hit a bit of an unexplained wall in 2015. Over the 125 fastballs he’s thrown in 2015, the hardest one topped out at 94.9 MPH, while his average fastball velocity is sitting just above 92 MPH. Even though his velocity has historically risen over April, that’s still down for him in the early part of the year.
A two MPH drop in velocity could be a sign of problems to come (ineffectiveness, injury, etc.), or it could be a correctable mechanical issue. More than likely, though, the Cubs’ front office has a good understanding of what is ailing Medina (mechanical or otherwise) and what they think they can do to help. For now, you should expect Medina to head to AAA Iowa to work on any existing problems and perhaps to try and regain the velocity on his fastball. After that, odds are good that we will see him in the big league bullpen sometime in the near future (assuming he is healthy, of course).
I get the sense that fans are a bit disappointed by the return for Castillo, but I’m not so sure they should be. Given that it took this long for the Cubs to trade Castillo, I get the feeling that the front office sees something they like in Medina – or least something they think they can fix. Also, we’ve seen some positive signs from scouts and pundits, on Twitter …
Jeff Passan, for example, is hearing that Medina still has plenty of upside:
Cubs sending RHP Yoervis Medina to AAA to smooth out mechanics, try to find the missing 2 mph on FB. Scouts believe he has closer potential.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 19, 2015
And Scott Weber – managing editor of Lookout Landing – thinks Medina was too much to give up for Castillo:
Even though Medina hasn't been great this year, still think that's a higher cost for Castillo than I expected.
— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 19, 2015
If you are disappointed by Medina’s peripherals, though, I’d understand. It’s never good to see high walk rates, high LOB%, low BABIPs and drops in velocity; however, peripherals don’t always tell the full story. From earlier:
From AA –> Majors (2011-2015) Medina has consistently posted an ERA better than his FIP, hopefully he can be one of those rare guys.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) May 19, 2015
Much like we’ve seen with Edwin Jackson, there are a few rare players who – for whatever reason – are able to escape their underlying statistics (Jackson, of course, goes the other way). Usually, these players regress back to the mean, but a few of them have qualities that are not entirely captured through stat lines, alone.
While you dream on Yoervis Medina being one of those guys, enjoy how foolish he makes Alexi Ramirez look here: