March 8, 2013 at 12:26 pm by Franklin Rabon under Atlanta Braves
Julio Teheran has looked fantastic this spring. His current line of 9 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 12 K is outstanding, especially since it has come early in games against MLB talent (BRef’s talent faced index indicates a 9.2, where 8 is AAA level and 10 is purely MLB players).
The peripherals, in particular the K/BB ratio, are obviously what you want to see. But, we shouldn’t really read too much into them. It’s one game’s worth of innings, against hitters who have yet to really get down their timing. Teheran is probably a little ahead of readiness schedule due to playing winter ball and that’s led to most of his incredible K and control numbers. What we can do however is evaluate how he’s pitching, regardless of results. And his mechanics have also looked excellent. As we’ve remarked on here multiple times, what got Teheran in trouble last year was really dropping, getting under his fastball, causing it to sail over the middle, and predictably get crushed. This spring has seen Teheran stay on top of the ball, improving both his command and his movement, for only a very marginal drop in velocity.
Further, we’ve seen Teheran employ two pitches much more than in previous years, the sinker and the slider. Teheran’s two primary problems have been with having hitters tee off on his 4 seamer and inability to be consistent with the curve. Thus far the sinker and slider have seemed to ease both of those concerns. The question will ultimately become whether or not those two pitches detract from his 4 seamer and curve, just replace them, or supplement them. At this point it seems some combination of replacing and supplementing. However, it is very difficult for most pitchers to effectively throw both a slider and a curve on a consistent basis, and it’s especially rare for a pitcher to have a great 2 seamer and a great 4 seamer. But at this moment, we can really only be encouraged with the sinker and slider, and if the slider develops and supplants Teheran’s curve that flashes, but has never been consistent, then maybe it’s for the better.
Finally, though we haven’t seen Teheran get in much major trouble yet, the hints he’s seen of trouble didn’t cause him to return to his bad habits of trying to overthrow, and then dropping down, causing his fastball to straighten out and elevate over the heart of the plate.
Ultimately this last point will be the make or break point for Teheran’s season. Can he consistently maintain his newer mechanics? We can take a few positives from Teheran’s spring, not because of the way his stats look, but more because of the way his mechanics look. 9 innings is nowhere near enough to evaluate a player statistically, but you can have a bit of an idea from a scouting perspective, and Teheran has looked just as good in that respect as well. If he continues to throw like he’s throwing, he’ll have great results overall this season, he has that kind of stuff. But if he gets into jams and tries to just power the ball past guys, we could see the return of last year’s Julio. At least thus far we haven’t seen it, which is encouraging.