December 11, 2012 at 9:20 am by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
Braves GM Frank Wren, manager Fredi Gonzalez, and other top assistants traveled down to the Dominican this weekend to get an in-person look at a handful of Braves players. The Braves currently have four players on the Tigres del Licey club: Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Juan Francisco and Christian Bethancourt.
The first three names will likely have an impact with the Braves in 2013. I was able to watch the Saturday (Delgado) and Sunday (Teheran) afternoon games via Internet stream. During these games, I recorded some innings and plate appearances and later went back to jot down some notes. I thought I’d pass along some of my observations.
I just want to reinforce that these are my observations of a handful of innings in the Dominican Winter League. The league itself is a mixed bag of solid prospects and legitimate MLB players, but also has its fair share of scrubs. Everything should be taken in with small sample size in mind. Personally, I wouldn’t put too much stock into many of these stats (some are still useful like K and BB rates).
Teheran looked good. He finished the game with a line of 6IP, 1H, 0ER, 0BB (1 HBP), 8K on 73 pitches, continuing his dominance over the past three starts. So far, he has pitched a total of 30.2 innings, posting a 3.23 ERA with a 24/9 K/BB ratio.
His fastball sat between 94-95 and possessed great command for the first four-ish innings. He was constantly down in the zone and on the corners, once beautifully painting the corner at 95 for strike three. That command began to fade later in the game, as he started to leave his fastball up in the zone.
Teheran’s off-speed was also fairly impressive. His curveball was getting good downward movement and was able to induce a couple of swing and misses on balls low and in the dirt. His changeup was between 79-81 and featured good movement.
What was most impressive with Teheran was that he was able to punch out eight batters, while rarely going deep into the count. He breezed through the first five innings sitting at 59 pitches (15 balls, 44 strikes). As I previously mentioned, as he got deeper into the game, it looked as if he was either tired or just got a little out of control with his delivery. In the fifth, he was up 0-2 and proceeded to hit the batter up in the hands with a fastball. In the sixth, he was noticeably up in the zone, which forced him into multiple full count situations. Two of the outs wound up being on very hard hit balls. Leaving the ball up in the zone and trying to overthrow seems to be where he struggled in 2012.
Delgado was not as impressive as Teheran, but still pitched well. He finished his outing with a line of 5IP, 4H, 2ER, 1BB, 6K. So far, he’s totaled 24.2 innings with a 5.11 ERA and a 25/9 K/BB ratio.
Delgado struggled with his fastball control for stretches. It sat in the low 90’s most of the game, but was on and off with it’s location. In the fourth, he walked former Brave Mauro Gomez on four straight pitches and then was tagged for a double by Indians catcher Carlos Santana. He seemed noticeably frustrated with the home plate umpires zone at times.
I was impressed with his off-speed stuff, especially his changeup, which hovered around 78-80. It was a solid velocity differential from his fastball and appeared to have great arm side movement. He was able to induce a lot weak contact (6 groundouts/2 flyouts) and even a couple of swing and misses.
For starters, the Braves official twitter account posted a picture of Francisco over the weekend along side Gonzalez and Bethancourt. He looked visibly thinner in the picture, which goes along with the reports that he has been working with a personal trainer this winter to lose weight. You can be the judge here (left).
Francisco hit cleanup for the Licey team in both games. So far in 108 at-bats, he’s posted a .315/.375/.565 slash line, with 7 HR’s and a 11/31 BB/K ratio. He is currently leading the Dominican League with a .940 OPS. From what I saw, he looked similar to the Juan we saw in Atlanta this season. As you’d expect, he had a very hard, pull-heavy swing (he lost his bat into the stands once). Overall, he did make some solid contact that resulted in a couple hard hit balls.
Again, this is a very small sample so it’s tough to put much, if any, weight into this. The numbers do look good, but I would avoid getting too giddy and temper the expectations until we see him in the spring for a month. If anything, a slimmed down Francisco is the strongest take away. This would also undoubtedly improve his range at third, where he already possesses a very strong-arm.
It was cool to catch a couple of games that featured Braves players who should make important contributions during the 2013 season. As of now, Teheran and Delgado will be fighting for the fifth spot in the rotation until Brandon Beachy returns near the end of July. Personally, I prefer Teheran. I like his ability to have better feel for all three pitches along with his higher ceiling. I still see Francisco as a very good bench option for now and expect the Braves to find a left fielder which will move Martin Prado to third.
We’ll have to keep an ear out for what Wren and Co. took away from this weekend’s trip.