(Editors Note: Uncited statements represent my own insights and opinions based on my own observations derived from information in the cited research sources. I personally calculated the SO/BB ratio that I mention in paragraph 6 using information from multiple cited sources. Thank You.)
The Atlanta Braves minor league system is currently stocked with intriguing young arms, many of whom could make significant contributions to the club during the 2011 major league season. If you’ve followed the Braves at all in the recent past, you are certainly aware of the success young flame throwers Craig Kimbrel (RHP) and Johnny Venters (LHP) are having out of the Atlanta bullpen, and the presence of right handed starter Brandon Beachy in the 5th spot in their starting rotation. Talented lefty Mike Minor has made nine starts for the Braves in the past two seasons, providing glimpses of his potential.
However, many see 20-year-old right-hander Julio Teheran as having the biggest upside of all the Braves young arms. In fact, Baseball America selected Teheran as the Atlanta organizations number one prospect, ahead of Minor, Kimbrel and Beachy, despite the fact that he has never pitched a single Major League inning.
According to Baseball America, Teheran has an “electric” arm. His fastball stays in the 94 to 96 mph range, and he maintains his velocity well during appearances. He features two quality secondary pitches in what Baseball Prospectus referred to as a “good curveball and at least average change”.
Currently listed at 6 feet 2 inches tall and a slight 175 pounds, Teheran still has some maturing to do physically. Some have projected him in the 185 to 200 pound range, others more optimistic at up to 210 pounds. His stamina has been a concern, but should improve as his growth continues and he increases his strength. Teheran has worked to improve his mechanics, yielding a smooth, easily repeatable delivery, reducing concerns about wear on his arm.
Teheran has had some command issues, especially with his secondary pitches. His curveball has significant 12 to 6 break, and will buckle many hitters’ knees if he can consistently throw it for strikes. He throws his curve in the mid to low 70’s. There are concerns that the delivery of his changeup will tip his intentions to hitters. Major League hitters will feast on the pitch if he cannot iron out this issue. If he can, he will have another quality offering that sits in the mid to low 80mph range. Overall Teheran has had success in the minors with his command, boasting a 3.92 SO/BB ratio in 44 games through the 2010 season.
Teheran began his professional career in 2008 playing for Atlanta’s rookie league affiliate in Danville, Virginia. He quickly moved through the system, playing single A ball for Braves affiliates in Rome, Georgia and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, before earning a promotion to the double A Mississippi Braves during the 2010 season. He earned another promotion to begin the 2011 season, playing at the AAA level with the Gwinnett Braves in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
The Braves obviously recognized something special when they signed the talented righty out of Colombia in 2007 for an $850,000 bonus which, according to Baseball America, was the largest bonus on the international market that year. Indeed, if all goes well and the youngster is able to iron out some issues in the minor leagues, he could become a significant part of the Atlanta starting rotation for years to come. At worst, with his velocity, he will contribute out of the bullpen.
Bill Ballew, Atlanta Braves, Baseball America 2011 Prospect Handbook, Published by Baseball America Inc., pg. 34
Specific Author unknown, Atlanta Braves, Baseball Prospectus 2011, Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., pg. 30