Julio Teheran’s First Start

Today, Julio Teheran makes his first start of the spring. He turned 22 a month ago, and after six years in the Braves organization, he is virtually guaranteed the last starting spot in the Braves rotation.

When the Braves signed him in 2007, this is what appeared in the Athens Banner-Herald:

Baseball America ranks right-hander Julio Teheran, who signed with the Braves on Tuesday, as the top international free agent.

The 6-foot-2 Teheran throws a fastball timed at 90 to 93 mph, but some scouts say his best pitch is his changeup. Johnny Almaraz, the Braves’ director of Latin American operations, called Teheran a “very significant signing” for the team.

“He has outstanding makeup and the combination of his pitching ability and the quality of his pitches made him one of the top pitching prospects we’ve seen in a while,” Almaraz said.

His stock only rose from there. Despite a 6.60 ERA in 15 innings of rookie ball at Danville in 2008, by the end of the year, David O’Brien reported that “Hanson and Heyward, along with 17-year-old pitcher Julio Teheran” were all completely off limits in trades. He rewarded their faith: in 2009 and 2010, he rose from rookie ball to Double-A, and just blew hitters away:


Before the 2011 season, he was Baseball America’s #5 prospect, a status he retained going into 2012. That was because of what he did in AAA:


He barely missed a beat. The walks went up and the strikeouts went down, but he was a 20-year old blowing away Triple-A hitters, so no one seemed to mind. The first warning signs came in five appearances in the majors that year, when he allowed 11 runs in 19 2/3 innings — most worryingly of all, he gave up four homers, because of his notably low home rate in the minors. It was written off as a glitch, though, and he came into 2012 as a strong candidate to make the rotation. I even wrote a post for Yahoo exploring whether he’d win the Rookie of the Year award.

Needless to say, he didn’t. He sucked in both the majors and the minors; it was his worst year in professional baseball since 2008, when he was 17. But a good last month of the season and a creditable performance in the Dominican Winter League restored some of the luster on his damaged prospect status, and once again, he is the Braves’ top pitching prospect. The last starting job is his to lose. Today, we’ll see how he looks.

POSTSCRIPT: I sent out a Doodle poll to everyone who indicated in the last comment thread that they were interested in meeting up to watch a Braves game in Atlanta this summer. If you did not get the link, but are still interested in seeing a game with us, please send me an email or leave a comment below. Thanks!

58 thoughts on “Julio Teheran’s First Start”

  1. I’m still trying to figure out my summer plans, but depending on the date I might be interested in attending a game with fellow Braves Journal folks.

  2. I listened to about ten minutes earlier, enough time for Blake DeWitt to get picked off first base and then make an error in the field. I don’t think he’s making it, either.

  3. So, I just learned this, but Andrelton is from Curacao? So continues the Braves tradition of having at least one player from the Netherlands Antilles.

    In tabloid news, Jair Jurrjens is still engaged to Ms. Georgia USA 2011, Kaylin Reque (and has been engaged for nearly 15 months now). Apparently the Braves aren’t the only entity from Georgia afraid of committing to Jurrjens.

  4. @5: I’d agree with you Alex, if the people playing were actually Atlanta Braves. I’m slightly more worried that a 2-2 by Schafer raises the probability that he becomes an Atlanta Brave. And if Reed Johnson, centerfielder, makes more than about 3 starts, 162-0 is definitely not happening.

  5. Speaking of Jurrjens, he made the start for the Orioles today. He gave up a run on two hits in two innings (went three up, three down in the first), but what caught my attention was the claim that he was frequently hitting 90 on the radar gun and was clocked as high as 93. Small sample size, to be sure, but it might be interesting to see how effective he could be if his velocity has truly somewhat returned.

    But then again, putting a fly ball pitcher in Camden Yards could be a recipe for disaster.

  6. Hey wait – Granderson broke his arm today. We could give them Success in exchange for, oh I don’t know, tickets or some merch

  7. @10, A small list of items that mirror Jordan Schafer’s trade value:

    1) Feminine hygiene products (used)
    2) Bob Wickman
    3) Michael Bourn*

    *If currently under contract with the Houston Astros

  8. The funny thing is, Jurickson Profar is about to be the best player from Curacao who didn’t play for the Braves. Kenley Jansen is really the only good Curacaoan player who never played for the Braves (Hensley Meulens is a great baseball man but wasn’t a great major leaguer), and he’s a reliever. Jurrjens, Simmons, and Jones are by far the greatest major leaguers in the history of Curacao. Until Profar comes up, that is.

  9. @12, You’re such a disappointment. Everyone else I know from the Netherlands Antilles plays professional baseball.

    @13, I’m hating the abundance of Major League shortstops that Texas seems to have gotten. Apparently quite a few other teams wanted to sign him as a pitcher in 2009 (he pitched Curacao to the LLWS title when he was 11 and to the championship game when he was 12), but the Rangers were the only team that would let him play SS. Probably the best $1.55 Million they’ve ever spent.

    I’m looking forward to watching Andrelton and Profar together over the next few years. Profar is definitely the superior talent, but they’re going to be compared side to side for a while, I think.

  10. I’m a bit disappointed Gattis hasn’t spent any innings behind the plate and what that might mean about the long-term plans for him in this organization. If he really has serious offensive value, there’s not a single place he can play regularly past 2013 aside from catcher.

  11. @15: I can’t understand the unwillingness to put Gattis at third. He can’t be much worse than Johnson.

  12. @16
    If Gattis goes to AAA, I could see him getting a crash course at 3b much like Kelly Johnson did 1/2 a decade ago at 2nd. However, I don’t see him going to AAA if he continues to hit during Spring.

  13. 18 — Agreed. Put him in a position where he can succeed and make him force your hand to find more ABs.

  14. Gattis is not a C, and Johnson’s incompetence is not a sufficient argument for asking him to learn a position for which he does not have the tools and has never played during spring training. If he’s the primary backup for Freeman, Jupton, and Heyward, he’ll find ABs.

    Though I suppose in retrospect those guys don’t really sit a whole lot.

  15. I’ve never seen Evan Gattis play, but it doesn’t sound very likely that he’ll be able to man an important defensive position at all. 1B/LF/DH sounds like his future to me.

  16. Between McCann and Gattis, I’m getting perilously close to hoping for an NL DH.

    Forgive me, for I have sinned.

  17. None of us know anything worthwhile about Gattis’ defense. We shouldn’t pretend that we know he can, or can not play any given position.

    He’s had a great winter, and he had a good game in _the second game of spring training._

    There’s no reason to rush it along. If he hits, he’ll stick and they’ll find him at bats. If he doesn’t hit, he’s not an MLB quality player. There’s no reason to throw Chris Johnson under the bus quite yet, either way.

  18. I think that the best case scenario would be something like the trade where we shipped Wilson Betemit off for Danys Baez and Willy Aybar. Betemit was only 24 then, but the luster had been off his prospect status for a while, when it became clear he was more of a utilityman than the star shortstop he’d been projected as a teenager. Aybar had upside and Baez was seen as a very good middle reliever. In the end, neither Baez nor Aybar contributed much of anything. But their perceived value at the time — a utility infielder with upside and a pretty good middle reliever — is probably about the best we could hope to get for Gattis.

  19. Bill Shanks is a moron and is clearly testing the limits of the amount of hypothetical questions a writer can pose in one column.

  20. Last year, the Braves signed Chad Durbin to their final roster spot literally a day after they had announced that Yohan Flande had a job in the major leagues. As Mac wrote at the time: “The decision to sign Durbin (sending Yohan Flande to the minors a day after he was told he had made the Show for the first time, like some sort of cruel joke) is basically inexplicable, but then all of Durbin’s (now thirteen season) career has been inexplicable.”

    But watching him give up five runs in a single inning to the Miami Marlins, I can understand why they might have preferred Durbin.

  21. It’s not hard to extrapolate from what’s been written that he’s not regarded as much of a defensive catcher. And we do have his minor league statistical record, which shows 17 errors and 27 passed balls in 114 games at catcher. We know he’s not a kid, and that the older a player is the less likely he is to develop a talent he doesn’t already possess. We know he’s not an agile athlete, and so his ceiling as a defensive player is further limited.

    Add it all up, and it’s likely he’d be a poor defensive catcher in the majors. I don’t see anything remotely controversial in that statement.

  22. Aside from what sansho mentioned above, there are some things the bode against Gattis playing C for any sort of extended time. First, it’s just a hard position. A lot of guys who start out there in the minors and play catcher for years don’t stay there in the majors. Second, Gattis has a short time frame, and the Braves like his bat. They want it in the majors. If it comes to him being a first bat off the bench in Atlanta or him getting reps in at catcher in Gwinett, I think the Braves will have him in the majors. When a guy has a bat that plays, you generally don’t dick around with it in the minors. Unless you’re the Phillies. Third, if the Braves really thought he had a future behind the plate, they’d have had him play there a helluva lot more in the minor leagues. He may ultimately end up there, and honestly, that would probably be fantastic for the Braves. But I don’t see it as realistic.

  23. We know he’s not a kid


    and that the older a player is the less likely he is to develop a talent he doesn’t already possess.

    Do we? We know that in typical progression curves a player will have developed his defensive tools by the time he is Gattis’ age. But we don’t know that this is because of the age of the player. Rather, it could be that the player has been instructed to the point where he has learned all he can learn about technique at that point, and having been in a developmental system for X number of years, he’s not going to get any better than that.

    Which, of course, would not necessarily apply to Gattis, who was out of baseball for years and has not been through years of skill and technique training typical of a randomly selected prospect his age. Unless we can show, definitively, that the development curve of a defensive (or offensive) player is uniquely age related – that is to say, fundamentally dependent on the *calendar age of a player* – rather than “years of instruction dependent, I don’t think we can accept your statement above as true.

    We know he’s not an agile athlete, and so his ceiling as a defensive player is further limited.

    Do we? I’ve not seen a lot of discussion, scouting reports or evidence in general of a lack of agility.

  24. Here’s one quote from assistant GM Bruce Manno last spring:

    “Defensively he’s gotten better behind the plate. He just needs work. His arm’s good enough, it’s just a matter of—with a lot of guys—you work on the feet, the footwork. Coming out quicker, that kind of stuff. But he’s doing that.”

    That reads to me as lack of particular agility, which they hope can be overcome with practice. So it’s a year later, and maybe he’s better, I don’t know. But my original point, that it’s something he needs to overcome, still stands. I admit that I am biased towards wanting a catcher to whom our pitching staff has faith they can throw a ball in the dirt without it getting away, and unless he hits so well as to make the argument academic I’m more excited to see Bethancourt behind the plate.

  25. @43 I’m sorry, since when are Johnson, Roadrunner and Chipper considered agile?

    We’ve had no problems putting statues at third for quite some time now, nor have we had any issue putting McCann behind the plate, who only really does one thing well defensive (frame pitches).

  26. @46: Absolutely. The traditional requirement to play third was a chest that could take a lot of bruising. That’s the way Eddie Mathews played, and he’s in the HOF. Of course, the 512 HR helped.

  27. If Gattis is a legitimate offensive force, I could see him getting 400 ABs. Between absorbing ABs from the C, 1B, LF and RF (I assume on Heyward days off that Jupton will play right and Gattis would play Left) I wouldn’t be surprised if his bat forced Fredi’s hand at giving him some of the 3B action. Well, the comedy of errors that will be the 3B platoon would probably do just as much of the Fredi-hand-forcing.

  28. Just for all you naysayers out there: Luis Avilan not only leads the team in wins, but also leads the team in wins going back 4 months and 20 days. He’s also the the only Braves pitcher to have recorded a win in that time periods; he’s obviously an integral part of the club.

    The ‘incorrect idea’ part of me thinks that Wren and Co. thought that Gattis would be ready for full-time catching duties starting this season, and so signed Laird to be a cheap backup in case of ineffectiveness/injury. Would kindaish explain letting Ross go.

    @50, All MLB hitters would probably just bunt to the 3rd base side every time Gattis was in the field. Probably a BABIP of .600 on those, too.

  29. See, I told you he was untouchable.

    I’m not aware of a RH-hitting 1B on the 25-man roster. Could that be a spot for Gattis?

  30. With sufficient practice and coaching, could Gattis one day successfully defeat a katana-wielding Bulgarian Internet ninja? That’s what I wonder.

  31. Hahaha! AAR, my buddy showed me that site probably 8 years ago, and since then I’ve never seen or heard any reference to it from anybody else (until now). Thanks for the laugh, and for the refresher course (somehow I had forgotten 2 of the 3 facts about ninjas).

  32. @54&55
    I have that book!
    It used to be a tradition of mine to get drunk and read it aloud to whoever would listen!

  33. Florida can’t win 1) road games against semi-competent teams and 2) close games. Like, at all. I don’t see how anyone can consider them a #1 seed until they show they can hit a shot.

    In fairness, tonight they played against a very, very physical team, and only got calls for a 2-minute stretch towards the end of the first half. That and they only had six players that could go because of injuries. But still, you gotta win one on the road at some point.

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