Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Julio Teheran making believers

Julio Teheran is making believers this spring including the guy behind this keyboard. After being in just about everyone's top ten as a prospect in 2010, 2011 and even heading into 2012, Teheran got a bit blown up in his brief stop in Atlanta in 2011 and followed that up with a real downer of a season for the Gwinnett Braves Triple-A team in 2012. Suddenly, here he is in the Braves' spring camp and--albeit, in games that do not count--is pitching spectacularly. Maybe we counted this kid out too quickly.

Teheran fell in the prospect lists like Baseball America's from fifth to 44th. But at least he was still on the board. That might have been generous after his awful numbers in Triple-A last season. The numbers were ugly. His WHIP ballooned to 1.44. He gave up over ten hits per nine innings. And after allowing only fourteen homers in 287+ innings combined in 2010 and 2011, he gave up eighteen in just 131 innings in 2012. Heck, he even hit fifteen batters.

And it wasn't only that he was getting pounded a bit that was concerning. His strikeouts per nine innings fell to 6.7 after posting much better numbers in 2010 and 2011. Was there something wrong with him? He made  one emergency start for the Braves on June 10 and it was deceptively negative. He pitched four and a third innings and gave up four hits and a walk and struck out five. But four of his five base runners scored. He did pitch two scoreless innings on October 3 but that did little to leave a confused tale of what seemed like a wall thrown up in Teheran's face in 2012.

And so it was with a certain amount of skepticism that he was viewed as the Braves' fifth starter on Surely, the Braves would sign or trade for somebody else. But they did not and other candidates have fallen by the wayside. It really looks like Julio Teheran is going to be the Braves' fifth starter. And that could be a good thing if this spring is any kind of indication.

Teheran has started five games this spring. He has pitched twenty innings. And yes, these games don't count and yes, many players were off playing in the World Baseball Classic. But even so, you have to like what you see. He has given up only seven hits. He has only walked six and allowed two homers. Spring batters are batting .103 against him. And best of all, he has struck out 25 batters.

He looks overpowering and a complete opposite of last year's spring exhibitions when he looked over-matched and finished the spring of 2012 with a 9.37 ERA. Last year, he gave up nine homers and 22 hits in just 16.1 innings of work. What a difference a year makes.

Video of some of his performances seem to show a confident pitcher who is keeping the ball down, making great use of a fastball that is darting away from left-handed batters and a curve that he is throwing with some authority. It was kind of hard to tell, but those fastballs looked more like a two-seam fastball instead of a four-seam one he has featured exclusively to this point in his brief major league appearances.

The Atlanta Braves could push the Nationals this season if their pitching holds up. And if Julio Teheran keeps pitching the way he is right now, that pitching could be much better than expected. The projections for him are pessimistic and all in the 4.25 ERA range. But perhaps 2012 was just a blip and Julio Teheran can make believers out of all of us.

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