Touki Toussaint was a rotation candidate this time last year after a breakout 2018 season. It began to look like the project-pitcher they acquired in a salary dump from the Diamondbacks panned out in the best way possible. However, 2019 was one to forget. He had a failed stint in the bullpen, and that carried over to Triple-A, where he posted 7.49 ERA in 10 starts. He was actually better with the Braves in 24 appearances (23 out of the bullpen, one start) than he was with Gwinnett. A guy who showed frontline starter potential 2018 fell completely by the wayside.
The reason Toussaint was so incredible in 2018 was he finally learned to control his arsenal, or at least it seemed. He posted the best peripheral stats of his career between Double-A and Triple-A ball, a 3.5 BB/9 and 10.8 K/9 rate. However, he struggled with issuing free passes in his short stint in the big leagues, despite flashing his elite stuff, and that problem worsened in 2019.
With that said, it is way too early to dismiss Touki as a potential rotation candidate in the future. He is a former first-round pick, who is still just 23-years old and is only a little over a year removed from participating in the Futures Game. It also doesn’t hurt that Touissant possesses one of the best fastball-curveball combinations in the game… if he can ever learn how to control it, and elite athleticism for a pitcher. Here is him taking out his new teammate Marcell Ozuna, with one of the filthiest offerings you’ll see:
2018 Best Strikeout Reactions by a Duet:
Touki Toussaint and Marcell Ozuna pic.twitter.com/qfyGITog8Y
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) December 11, 2018
Control issues are nothing new for Toussaint. These problems date back to his early minor league days with the Diamondbacks, but he slowly achieved more control over his pitches with the Braves. The best route for him will be to start in Triple-A this season and work on his mechanics.
Toussaint is as boom or bust as a prospect can get, but the Braves will have to develop him properly to be more consistent. He was so hot in 2018 that management had no choice but to give him a crack at the big leagues, but he had only appeared in 8 starts in Triple-A before the promotion. It is easy to forget, but overall, he has only spent a little over half a season’s worth of starts with Gwinnett.
His development is not close to over despite his early callup. It may be time to go back to the drawing board, but that is fine. As the roster is currently constructed, the Braves have no need for his services to begin the season. They will not have to use Touki out of the bullpen out of necessity unless a rash of injuries takes place, which is not out of the realm of possibility. Nonetheless, the plan should be to allow him a full season at Triple-A Gwinnett, and if he gets hot again, then you can think about bringing him back.
We all knew that Touki could have a topsy-turvy track record as far as his production went during development, but 2019 was a shock to most. Still, the upside has gone nowhere. Allowing him to develop without any distractions properly is the best chance he has of reaching his potential, and hopefully this time next year, he will again be talked about as a potential rotation candidate, and perhaps even a lock, if things go better than expected.