There hasn’t been a love/hate relationship quite like the one between Julio Teheran and the Atlanta Braves fanbase. The Colombian native made his MLB debut as a 20-year but did not complete his first full season until he was 22 back in 2013. That year, Teheran finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting going 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA. That was enough to lock him up via a six-year $32.4 million contract extension. The very next season, Teheran was an All-Star and finished with a sub 3.00 ERA. Then, the “hate” begins.
The now seven-year veteran has been a reliable pitcher but not the special arm that most Braves’ fans were hoping for after his first couple of seasons. However, the animosity towards Teheran comes more from the front office’s stubbornness to move on from him rather than his poor performance on the field.
The Braves began their full-blown rebuild in 2015, trading away the majority of their significant assets and winning 67 games. Names like Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton, and Anderlton Simmons were sent to the West Coast. Not long after that, it became apparent Teheran was never going to develop into a true ace. However, he remained on an affordable contract and was still considered an All-Star caliber pitcher around the league. The Braves could have received a treasure chest of prospects in return, but instead chose to right the ship through the entirety of the rebuild.
By no means has the front office’s decision paid off. Teheran is coming off arguably his two worst years in the majors due to a substantial drop off in his velocity and lost all of his trade value. The Braves might have received a mid-level prospect in exchange for Teheran and some cash if they had decided to trade him this past offseason, and I don’t think too many Braves fans would have lost sleep over it either. Luckily, Alex Anthopoulos decided to hang on for one more season, because Teheran looks like the best pitcher on the staff to begin 2019.
With Teheran, it begins and ends with his velocity. Last year, he had several starts where he was topping out at 88 or 89 mph. In his first two starts this season, he’s consistently stayed in the low 90s, which may not sound like much but can make all the difference at the professional level. He’s re-found his confidence with his slider, throwing it in any count and keeping batters uncomfortable. The poise of the old Julio Teheran is back, which is an encouraging sign for a rotation that is incomplete, to say the least, at the moment.
As a result, Teheran has struck out 14 batters in 10 innings pitched in his first two starts. His control hasn’t been pristine, which is something to monitor going forward. Last year, Teheran had more than 4 BB/9 innings for the first time in his career. Before that, preventing walks was a staple of his. However, I’m confident his control issues last year were an effect of his lack of confidence in the strike zone due to his deteriorated velocity. As long as his fastball can stay in the low 90s, I see no reason as to why he cannot bounce back and put together a splendid 2019.
I’ll admit it. I was on board with getting rid of Julio Teheran in an attempt to save as much of the $11 million that was owed to him. The last two years have been as suspect as they come, but in this small sample size, he has proven me incorrect. The Braves look smart by keeping Teheran, and given the number of injuries Atlanta’s pitching staff has suffered, this starting rotation would look cringe-worthy without him apart of it.
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