Last year Julio Teheran was ranked as Baseball America’s fourth best prospect at midseason, behind Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Matt Moore.
While those other three have been starring for their big league clubs this summer (the Nationals, Angels and Rays respectively), Teheran has struggled with inconsistency. He fell back to the 24th highest-rated prospect this time around, with Baseball America saying he’s “taken a step back.”
After going 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) last season for Triple-A Gwinnett to win international league pitcher of the year, Teheran is 7-7 with a 5.05 ERA in 23 starts this season. But when Teheran does what he did Tuesday night in Norfolk, the entire organization takes notice.
Teheran pitched eight dominant innings, allowing one run, striking out nine and walking none. Braves general manager Frank Wren was watching on TV in his suite at Turner Field during the Braves-Padres game and manager Fredi Gonzalez said his Wednesday started on a good note after he read about it in the minor league reports.
Gonzalez said Teheran has been working on some mechanical changes with Gwinnett pitching coach Marty Reed. Wren characterized them as just getting back to being more athletic.
“I think sometimes kids get so caught up in mechanics that they kind of lose their athleticism,” Wren said. “Everything (is geared around) trying to free him up and letting his arm work. And he did a good job of that (Tuesday) night.”
Wren said Teheran’s fastball was clocked at 93-96 mph. The outing was Teheran’s best since he pitched his first career complete game June 3 against the White Sox Triple-A team in Charlotte, allowing one run on seven hits and striking out six.
Kris Medlen saw that start when he was in Gwinnett stretching out to become a starter. He said the key for Teheran is fastball location.
“When he’s going good, it’s down at the knees,” Medlen said. “(If) it’s down and away or down and in, you’re not hitting it. He kind of short-arms it a little bit. He still gets pretty good downhill plane and when it’s down in the zone there’s no shot of guys touching it.”
Between those starts, Teheran went 1-5 with a 7.66 ERA in 11 starts. But at age 21, the Braves expect ups and downs.
“It doesn’t bother me because you’re going to have to have some adversity, and this young man has never had any problems anywhere,” Gonzalez said. “So this year he’s had some adversities, he had to make some changes and it’s fine. Better there than the major leagues.”
Yes, the Braves still see Teheran as an important part of their future.
“Him and (Randall) Delgado – they’re going to be two guys that we’re going to count on,” Gonzalez said.
Teheran had a chance to make the team out of spring training as a fifth starter and struggled. But as the Milwaukee Brewers found out around the trade deadline, the Braves have plans for Teheran.
“He’s still one of the best pitching prospects in the game,” Wren said. “He’s 21 years old. We like him a lot.”