San Diego Padres rookie Tommy Medica provided some thunder this past weekend, hitting two homers Friday night then adding a single and double on Saturday. Through 63 games for the Padres he's hitting .279/.321/.474 with six homers, nine walks, 46 strikeouts in 154 at-bats for a wRC+ of 126. Medica didn't get much attention outside of Padres circles entering the season, although he was the recipient of the 2014 Josh Willingham This Guy Can F**king Hit Award, which I give in my book every year to a guy who can hit but who doesn't rank highly on prospect lists for one reason or another, oftentimes defense or age.
He didn't exactly come out of nowhere. Medica was a successful college hitter at Santa Clara. He hit .342/.408/.509 with good reviews for his defense behind the plate in 2008, but a severe shoulder injury cost him most of 2009 and made his future as a catcher quite doubtful. He returned to hit .386/.464/.667 with 13 homers and 15 steals in 2010, but was used mainly as an outfielder. This was enough to get him drafted in the 14th round. This had to be disappointing for him because he was seen as a possible second round pick before the injury, but at least he got drafted.
He split '11 between Low-A Fort Wayne (.268/.366/.465, wRC+139 in 44 games) and High-A Lake Elsinore (.302/.440/.504, wRC+144 in 42 games), showing power and good strike zone judgment at both levels, used primarily as a first baseman. More injuries limited him to 93 games for Lake Elsinore in 2012, but he was extremely productive in those 93 games, hitting .330/.406/.623 with 19 homers, wRC+161.
Despite his outstanding hitting record in A-ball, he was left off most prospect lists entering 2013 due to his age (25 in April), history of injuries, and questionable position. He got hurt again in 2013, limited to 76 games for Double-A San Antonio with a strained lat, but he continued to rip the ball, hitting .296/.372/.582 with 18 homers, wRC+165. He continued to hit well during a major league trial late last year (.290/.380/.449 in 69 at-bats). The main red flag in the majors thus far is his BB/K/PA ratio, which is unattractive at 19/69 in 244 PA.
Medica is a 6-1, 190 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born April 9, 1988. He can pull the ball for power but isn't a strictly pull type and will drive the ball the opposite way on occasion. His swing was critiqued as being too long when he was younger and scouts weren't sure it would work against advanced pitching, but so far he's done fine. He lost nothing when he reached Double-A and has remained productive against major league pitching.
The former backstop is solid enough as a first base defender, although his lack of speed is a problem in the outfield. He hasn't seen any catching time since 2012 although I suppose you could use him there in an emergency.
In 162-game notation, we see a line of .283/.340/.466, 131 OPS+, 130 wRC+, with 20 doubles, 18 homers, 38 walks, and 136 strikeouts in 482 plate appearances. That's not out of line with his minor league numbers, although definitely on the upper edges of expectation. Pre-season projection systems see him as somewhere between a .225/.293/.408 hitter (most pessimistic, Oliver) to .256/.326/.456 (most optimistic, weighted mean PECOTA).
I think many of the pre-season projections were too pessimistic; I think the mean PECOTA is about right, I see him as a .260/.330/.450 hitter in the long haul, not outstanding but useful power in the current major league context. Medica is a little over his head right now but not terribly so; there's enough bat here for him to be a productive player. He's another sleeper type that I root for; I respect guys who work there way back from tough injuries.
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