Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Now With The Angels, Could Julio Teheran Return To Fantasy Viability?

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Remember when the Braves’ Julio Teheran was viewed as someone with the potential to emerge as a Top 20 starting pitcher? Those days seem long behind him, despite being just 29-years old come Opening Day. Instead things never came together in Atlanta and he’ll get a fresh start with the Angels, after another underwhelming season:

174.2 IP
10 Wins
3.81 ERA
1.32 WHIP
162 Strikeouts (8.35 K/9)
83 Walks (4.28 BB/9)
39.0% Groundball Rate
.266 BABIP

Obviously the ERA isn’t bad, though it isn’t great either. The question really is if it’s possible that he maintains it, given the lack of a true standout skill. Is there hope in any of them, though?

Strikeouts

This appears to be his “best” skill, though he actually showed fewer swings and misses than he has before with a 9.2% SwStr% (down from 11.2% in ’18). Part of that is due to the amount he throws his fourseam fastball (41.51%) and sinker (22.29%), neither of which elicit much in the way of swings and misses. The only other pitch he throws more than 10% is his slider (21.04%), though it’s not like any of his other three pitches are elite marks (Whiff%):

  • Slider – 15.70%
  • Curveball – 14.29%
  • Changeup – 11.41%

The fact is that as the owner of a career 7.84 K/9 who is moving the American League and with the underlying numbers it’s impossible to think this is his ceiling and a regression is inevitable.

Control

This used to be his strongest skill, but over the past two seasons he’s posted BB/9 of 4.30 and 4.28. While it looks like he improved in the second half of ’19 (3.89 BB/9), it’s buoyed by a 2.08 in July. That was the only month in which he was better than a 4.19 mark (in fact over his past 13 months played, going back to September ’17, he only has three months with a BB/9 better than a 4.00).

Groundballs

While home runs were surprisingly not a significant issue last season (1.13 HR/9), despite the power surge around the game, just look at the numbers over the previous two seasons:

  • 2017 – 1.48
  • 2018 – 1.33

There’s little reason to think that another step back isn’t in the cards, especially since he’ll now have to maneuver around more difficult lineups, especially since historically his groundball rate has been in this range (38.0%).

Conclusion

With there being a good chance that his BABIP takes a step backwards (39.1% Hard%) what exactly is there to hang your hat on? He doesn’t carry any standout skill, and there’s little reason to think that he’s going to improve anywhere. The Angels need help in the rotation, but Teheran isn’t the answer.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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