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!