By now we have all heard the hype regarding the Braves’ Julio Teheran, but when do we require the performance to meet the expectations? Even if we choose to ignore his performances in he Major Leagues due to a small sample size (5.19 ERA over 26.0 IP), what do we make of his 2012 Triple-A performance?
In 131.0 innings in 2012 Teheran posted an abysmal 5.08 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. While he maintained good control (2.95 BB/9), he struggled to strike batters out (6.66 K/9), allowed too many home runs (1.24 HR/9) and was very hittable (.282 average against based on a fairly believable .318 BABIP). For a pitcher who has been hailed by many as one of the best prospects in the game, the performance was lousy. It is even worse when you take into account that it was his second go round at Triple-A (2.55 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 144.2 innings in 2011).
So, the question is what happened? Baseball America, who still rank him as the team’s best prospect heading into 2013, gave the following explanation:
“Teheran has an electric arm, but his delivery had some violence that the Braves wanted to iron out in order to reduce his risk of injury. In 2012, they decided to reduce the bend on his back leg during his windup. He had been turning and coiling his body to generate more momentum toward the plate, placing additional strain on his right knee and elbow. Atlanta worked with Teheran on keeping his back leg straighter in order to create a better center of balance, particularly in his core. The alterations not only led to less initial success, but also to a reduction in fastball velocity. After sitting at 93-95 mph and reaching 97 in 2011, Teheran operated mostly at 90-93 last season. To his credit, he stuck with the changes and showed signs of regaining his previous velocity during the latter weeks of the campaign.”
Baseball Instinct, who also rank Teheran atop the system, had another reason for the possible regression (click here for their rankings):
“Another point to make is that the Braves had Teheran focus on refining his curveball, working backwards in counts and forcing him to lean on it instead of his main off-speed pitch, which is his plus changeup.”
So, it sounds like not only did the Braves alter his delivery, but they had him using a “lesser” pitch in order for him to strengthen his overall repertoire. Suddenly, the struggles don’t sound as discouraging, do they?
For what it’s worth, he has pitched well in the Dominican Winter League, posting a 3.23 ERA to go along with 24 K and 9 BB over 30.2 IP. We also have to keep in mind that Teheran is still just 22-years old, meaning he has plenty of time to reach that potential we have been hearing about for the past few years.
Was his 2012 a major disappointment? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean that it is the end of the discussion. There appears to be extremely valid reasons for his struggles, and it was more the Braves wanting to strengthen him and better prepare him to thrive for the long haul.
The Braves have an opening at the back of their rotation and there is a very real possibility that Teheran wins the job in Spring Training. Let everyone else in your league write him off due to the poor season. He is just as good of a prospect as he ever was and should be considered a good buy late in all fantasy drafts. The talent is there, and hopefully the changes made in 2012 have put him in a position to thrive in 2013.
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Make sure to check out the rest of our 2013 Prospect Reports: