Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

chicago cubs logo featureAs expected, today the Chicago Cubs placed lefty reliever Zac Rosscup on the disabled list with the dreaded (or not!) left shoulder inflammation. Something was clearly off with him last night, and, after the game, Joe Maddon said Rosscup couldn’t get loose. Hopefully that means the injury here is minor, and some rest will clear things up.

In the interim, the Cubs brought up another reliever to keep the pen at a robust eight … but it’s probably not the guy you expected. Although Brian Schlitter, who was just sent down to accommodate Kyle Schwarber, could have been immediately recalled (you can do that when the player being replaced is going on the disabled list), the Cubs decided instead to get their first big league look at righty Yoervis Medina.

If that name sounds vaguely familiar (other than obviously being the brother of our own Luis (not really (but maybe))), that’s because the hard-throwing 26-year-old reliever was the return when the Cubs sent Welington Castillo to the Mariners last month.

From Michael’s write-up on 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.

In the early going with AAA Iowa, Medina was striking guys out (21.4%) but also walking them at a frightening clip (12.5%). Clearly, though, the Cubs like what they’ve seen enough to give him a shot back in the big leagues. It could be that, as a guy who’s already had big league success, he could stand to have the extra jolt that comes from facing big league hitters.

Hopefully the velocity is back to where it needs to be, and, if it is, the Cubs may find they’ve landed another late-inning option. With Neil Ramirez on the mend and Rafael Soriano on the way, the Cubs could soon be overflowing with such options – but, of course, we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. For now, it’ll be good for the Cubs to get to see what they have in Medina at the big league level.

The Cubs have had a lot of success with guys like this in recent years, and scouts have always believed back-end upside was there with Medina.

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