by Ray Kuhn
While Julio Teheran might be the ace for the Atlanta Braves, by default in a sense, the same should not be said for his status on your fantasy team. It feels like the right-hander has been around forever, but he is still just 26-years old.
After his struggles last season it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come to that conclusion that he was overrated entering ’17 (his NFBC ADP was 108, making him the 25th starting pitcher selected). What I have noticed is that per early ADP data from Fantrax (65th starting pitcher with an ADP of 229), the trend has been to over correct for Teheran’s struggles.
Yes, Teheran did end the season with a 4.49 ERA as he had the worst season of his career both from a skill and statistical standpoint (his FIP was 4.95), but are there really 64 starting pitchers better than him? For all of the fantasy owners that decided, after seeing him come up short as compared to his ADP, that they weren’t going to own Teheran in 2018, early trends are suggesting that you take a closer look.
When you compare Teheran’s 4.49 ERA from 2017 with his career mark of 3.59, 4.06 FIP, it is clear that last season was an outlier. The question is how much of an outlier was it and how much of it was the pitcher Teheran truly is? As a baseline we can set our expectations for 2018 and beyond more in line with his career FIP. That drops him down from being the 25th best starting pitcher, as the market determined he was last season, but not as far down as the market currently has him.
The biggest theme are his splits. At home in Atlanta’s new park Teheran’s ERA was 5.86, but on the road it was 3.14. In the first half of the season his ERA was 4.79, but he did improve in the second half as he put up a 4.13 ERA. One season is not enough time to paint an accurate picture of Sun Trust Park, but having the benefit of the off-season should help him adjust. If you are taking Teheran as your fifth or sixth starter, he is not someone you are solely relying on and that allows him to become a streaming option.
Before blaming the entirety of his struggles on the ballpark, until we have more data it’s difficult to determine how much blame it deserves, there are a few other things that don’t exactly paint Teheran in the most favorable light.
After striking out 7.99 batters per nine innings in 2016 to go along with a walk rate of 1.96 batters per nine innings, Teheran went in the wrong direction for 2017. The right-hander’s strikeout totals dropped to 7.22 per nine innings (7.67 career mark) while he had some real control issues walking 3.44 batters per nine innings (2.59 career). That, along with struggles against left-handed batters and a 40% ground ball rate, is not a recipe for success.
Another problem was with the long ball. He saw his home run per fly ball rate rise from 10% to 14%, but there was some bad luck involved. According to Baseball HQ, 9.4 of the 31 HR Teheran allowed last season were “undeserved”. The general implication is that in 2018 that trend will reverse, or at least reduce.
Teheran is not a pitcher I am going to plan my team around, but with his draft price where it is he likely will wind up on a lot of my teams. At that price there is no risk, only reward, and it is a far cry from where he was just one year ago.
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