Getting added to the 40-man roster is a big deal for a player. Adonis Medina was added last year and Damon Jones was added this offseason. Does it mean they’ll both pitch in Philadelphia? Not necessarily, but the chances of them doing so just went up. Medina especially feels like he’ll be a part of the 2021 team since, as a starter, he’ll be one of the first ones called up in case of injury to a member of the current rotation. There is also the need for Joe Girardi to manage the innings of his starters this year and if one of them feels even the slightest twinge in their elbow, shoulder, oblique, whatever, you can guarantee that a trip to the injured list will be in their future. That should equate, at some point, to Medina making the trip to Philadelphia to make an emergency start or two.
Jones might be a different case. As a (mainly) relief pitcher on the 40-man roster, he should get used to the drive from Philadelphia to Lehigh Valley, learning all the shortcuts, times to avoid highways and the like. He’ll be making that drive often this year.
What could go right in 2021
There were many years when Medina where he’d appear on top ten prospect lists, sometimes at or near the top of the list. Once he started falling a spot or two with each subsequent year, it seemed that some prospect fatigue was settling in and that others were passing him by. But at some point, he was a top prospect for this team. The best thing that could happen to him is that he lives up to the pedigree that had him ranked so highly in the first place.
When he was called up in September last year, this is what Baseball Prospectus wrote about him:
The quality of Medina’s stuff has varied a lot depending on when you’ve seen him. His velocity spiked from around 90 in 2015 to sitting 92-96 and touching 97 or 98 in 2017, but then dipped back a tick or two; he was more 91-94 and touching 96 in 2019, and 90-93 yesterday. He ditched a loopy curveball for a slurvy breaking ball (or two) in the low-minors, and at one point we thought that would be his out pitch. The breaker flashes plus when tightened up into more of a slider, and at times has even been more consistently so. Yet he regressed back into slurviness in 2019, and that carried over into his debut. The change is a bit on the firm side but flashes; the problem is that it remains an inconsistent pitch. We started getting concerned about Medina’s ability to be an impactful rotation piece last year due to lack of development in key areas, enough that he dipped off the Top 101. The command can come and go, the velocity readings are variant even within games, and the change isn’t quite getting there yet. That’s a lot of relief markers (or alternately, back-end starter ones).
If he can somehow get back to what made him hitting 97-98 a few years ago while getting more consistent with his curveball, that’s some kind of an impact pitcher. Is that a reliever or a starter? At this point, it would probably lean more reliever, though him sitting in the mid-90s while having two other at least average pitches would be something that Joe Girardi could work with.
With Jones, for everything to go right, there needs to be a lot of this:
A left-handed reliever that can touch 100 while also having a slider that is said to be above average? Yes please. The NL East is loaded with left-handed threats at the plate, Juan Soto, Freddie Freeman and Michael Conforto chief among them. If Jones can somehow come up and be weapon that can be used against them while also retaining the ability to get right-handed hitters out, that’s a pitcher that hearkens back to the days of good Adam Morgan.
What could go wrong in 2021
Medina has already pitched in the major leagues.
It didn’t go well.
The worst outcome for Medina would be a continued backslide of his stuff and prospect status to the point where he’s not even viable out of the bullpen and is the first one to be DFA’d for someone more equipped to help the team. The scary thing is that this isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Look at that scouting report above again. There has been a steady decline in stuff to the point some are wondering why he isn’t a reliever already. If the team keeps on trotting him out as a starter, he fails there, then they try him as a reliever and he fails there, they will have blown a development opportunity.
With Jones, the same thing would seem to apply. He’s not been featured prominently on prospect lists, but he’s thought of highly enough by those in the prospect community that it would be slightly disappointing that he wasn’t able to continue to pump that mid-90’s heat with regularity. Lefty relievers are a fickle bunch so if he cannot harness the stuff, they are left with the bad version of Adam Morgan.
For both of these young arms, this is somewhat of a pivotal season. For Medina, this might be his last shot with the organization that has people in charge that weren’t there for his development. It’s been slow and steady, but those people might not be so patient anymore. With Jones, there is a better than zero chance he’ll be kept around. After all, lefties that throw hard tend to hang around. At some point, he’ll have to prove it in the major leagues.