The Braves are a team that is overloaded with pitching prospects. While the injuries to their starting staff helped contribute to their late season collapse, the experience many of their young starters gained could put the Braves in a better position for future seasons.
One starter who definitely gained from his last season taste of the Majors was 20-year old Julio Teheran. While he went 1-1 with a 5.03 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and 10 K over 19.2 innings, getting his feet wet should go a long way in helping him grow. Just to get an idea of how good he can be, just look at his Triple-A numbers this season:
122 Strikeouts (7.59 K/9)
48 Walks (2.99 BB/9)
For a pitcher at his age pitching against that level of competition, those are impressive numbers. In fact, since signing with the Braves in 2008, Teheran has excelled. Over his minor league career (which began as a 17-year old) he’s posted a 2.96 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 8.56 K/9.
He’s always flashed above average control, posting a 2.58 BB/9. While his time at Triple-A was impressive, just look at what he’s posted at each level
- Rookie League – 1.69 BB/9 over 13 starts
- Low Single-A – 2.45 BB/9 over 14 starts
- High Single-A – 1.85 BB/9 over 10 starts
- Double-A – 3.83 BB/9 over 7 starts
It goes to show you that his 3.86 BB/9 in the Major Leagues is not indicative of his actual ability. Not that it is a bad number, but with better control will come significantly better results.
Throw in the fact that he barely struck anyone out, another number that is not indicative of his talent (8.56 K/9 over his minor league career), and you get a full understanding of why Teheran underperformed in his 2011 cup of coffee.
Prior to the season Baseball America ranked him as the Braves’ top prospect. All you have to do is read the first few sentences of their scouting report to get an idea of how good his stuff is:
“Teheran has an electric arm, the ability to throw all of his pitches for strikes and the knowledge of how to exploit batters’ weaknesses. His fastball clocks consistently in the 94-96 mph range, and he maintains his velocity throughout the course of a game. He has a pair of above-average secondary pitches, with his changeup grading slightly better than his curveball. His changeup shows nice fade and he’s willing to throw it in any count. His curve resides in the low 80s with hard downward movement, as well as good bite and depth.”
All that is left is the opportunity. Having thrown 164.1 innings in 2011, an innings limit is not going to be a major issue. That’s a definite positive.
Will there be an opening in the Braves rotation, however? According to Mark Bowman of mlb.com (click here for the article), there will be at least one spot up for grabs. In discussing Derek Lowe, general manager Frank Wren was quoted as saying, “Going into next season, it’s hard to project him as one of our starters at this point, based on the young talent we have”.
Of course, if everyone is healthy, one opening is not enough for all of the young talent the Braves have. Even without Lowe, their rotation includes:
- Tim Hudson
- Jair Jurrjens
- Tommy Hanson
- Brandon Beachy
That doesn’t include Mike Minor, who got a much longer look than Teheran in 2011 (4.14 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 77 K in 82.2 IP). However, would it surprise anyone to see the Braves trade Minor in order to bolster the lineup? If that were to happen, Teheran could break camp as the Braves #5 starter.
It’s a storyline worth watching. Obviously, we’ll re-address this later in the offseason, but Teheran is a pitcher that should definitely be at the forefront of fantasy owner’s minds. If he opens the year with the Braves, he has the potential to be 2011’s version of Michael Pineda.