Is it time to worry about Julio Teheran?


As one of the Braves elite prospects, Teheran began getting his feet wet in the big leagues before his 21st birthday. He spent multiple stints in the big leagues over two seasons before getting the full-time call as a 22-year old, and he did not disappoint. He dazzled in his rookie season, winning fourteen games compared to just eight losses, but more impressively posted a 3.20 ERA and showcased his stellar control for such a young player.

The excitement only grew in Teheran’s second season in which he earned his first all-star appearance, going 9-6 with a 2.71 ERA in the first half of the season. The team was no longer looking like the competitive force it once was, but Teheran looked to be one of the lone bright spots of the future. A future ace on a team that lacked quality young pitching.

But after a lackluster 2015 campaign, questions began to arise if Teheran would truly develop into the ace the Braves had hoped for. The 24-year old from Columbia never possessed overpowering stuff, as his complete control of the plate is what allowed him to have so much success in his early years. However, in 2015 his walk numbers experienced quite a spike and so did his ERA. Teheran still went 11-8, but on a team with very little hope in the near future, he became the talk of numerous trade negotiations.

Those trade discussions only heightened, as the Braves were the worst team in baseball heading into the trade deadline in 2016. Teheran bounced back with an all-star worthy first-half, posting a 2.96 ERA prior to the all-star break. He earned his second all-star selection, and teams around the league attempted at prying him away from Atlanta.

The Braves did not bite though, holding onto their best pitcher for yet another season. But the end of Teheran’s 2016 was not spectacular, and his start to 2017 has been absolutely dreadful. Atlanta passed on the opportunity to receive a treasure chest of prospects from teams at the trade deadline last year. They will not be receiving the same kind of offers this year. Leaving one to question, with three years of control remaining on Teheran’s deal, is it time to worry?

The answer to that question really comes down to what one expected out of Teheran in the long-term. If your hope was that Teheran would develop into a shutdown ace after his early success, those days are long gone. Teheran has not or will not ever be a true stopper, and while he has several games a year where he looks like the best pitcher on the planet, he has been much too inconsistent his entire career.

If you are still expecting to get a deal for Teheran that existed last season, you should be worried. A large part of that interest from last season came after a spectacular first half of the season and the fact that Teheran was still under team control for four more seasons. The simple aspect that Teheran is only under team control for three more seasons is enough to lower his value. Add onto that the way he has preformed in the first-half of this season, and the Braves will be lucky to get half of what they were offered at this time last year.

However, if you are paying attention to the direction this organization his heading, Teheran is still a crucial part of it.

If Atlanta did not plan on having Teheran as a part of their future, they would have traded him last year before the deadline. He was an all-star that still had four years of team control attached to him, in a trade market that featured very few high quality pitchers. The Braves could have gotten and arm and a leg, but having a pitcher of that quality signed to such a low number for such a long time was too much for the Braves to part ways with.

In Coppy’s mind, the team was still in position for success while Teheran is under contract. And judging by the way the first half of this season has gone, Coppy was right. The Braves are one of the hottest teams in baseball as they try to eclipse the .500 mark for the first time all season. The playoffs may be a long shot this season, but the organization has shown they are only a couple of pieces away from being legitimate World Series contenders.

With this being the case, fans should not be too worried about Teheran. Inconsistency has been a well-documented problem for him over his career. He can go out and look flawless for five starts in a row, and then fail to record another quality start for a month.

His current 5.30 ERA is nearly two full runs above his career ERA. His stuff has not lost anything, and when taking a deeper look at the numbers, it is clear his problems are once again stemming from his control. This is a pitcher who only walked 45 batters his rookie season in 185.2 innings pitched. He already has 34 walks this season in just 90 innings pitched. And even when he has hit the zone, he has not had the same pinpoint accuracy he has shown in the past. He has left way to many balls up and in the middle of the plate this year, leading to 19 home-runs against him already. That is quite incredible when you consider Teheran has never given up more than 27 home runs in a season, and has only given up more than 22 home runs once.

With pitching being so volatile, and MLB hitters able to take advantage of even the tiniest mistakes, one can point to a couple reasons for why Teheran might be struggling so mightily. The first is the new ballpark, which has been described as hitter’s paradise. Home starts have been a nightmare for the 26-year old, as he is 1-6 with 7.58 ERA at SunTrust Park. Another reason could be the Braves change of pitching coaches. McDowell has been the pitching coach for Teheran ever since he has been a Brave, but with Chuck Hernandez now holding down that position, Teheran has not seen the same type of success.

Even with Teheran’s struggles, there is reason to believe he will bounce back just fine. Stretches like these are not unusual over the course of his career. He finished off last year with an ERA around five in the months of August and September, pitched the first three months of his 2015 season to the tune of an ERA around five, and began his rookie season with a 5.08 ERA in the month of April. Despite all of that, Teheran has only finished with an ERA above four on the season once which happened back in 2015 (4.04). He may be off to the worst start of his career, but there is a good chance that means he bounces back with a significantly better second half, much like he did in 2015.

Is Teheran the ace many Braves fans hoped he would become? No. But that was never exactly the plan for him in the first place. As the starting rotation begins to round itself out with talented young pitching, Teheran is going to be asked to be the veteran face in the middle of the rotation. He is a perfect number two or three pitcher, that can shut down the best of lineups on any given night. And he is going to be doing so on a very team friendly contract. Atlanta may have missed out on their opportunity for a mother load of prospects in return for Teheran, but he will remain a vital part of the team’s journey to get out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2001.


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