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May 6, 2011

Future Shock

Julio Teheran: One-Night Stand

by Kevin Goldstein

Despite my pleas for sanity, I continue to receive a deluge of “When will Player X be in the big leagues?” questions. Again, I certainly understand them, but I still don't know, and neither does anyone else. A great example of how the calendar plays into these decisions took place on Friday afternoon when the Braves announced that 20-year-old right-hander Julio Teheran, the best pitching prospect in baseball, would make his major-league debut on Saturday.

Let's get one thing out of the way: This is a one-and-done deal, created by a doubleheader and the Braves understandably not wanting to go with Tim Hudson on three days' rest when he is coming off of a complete game. A temporary opening was created in the Braves' rotation, and Teheran will get the call. The thing is, he's not getting the call purely because of performance, he's getting the call because it is Saturday. Yes, he's pitching well, but it is also his turn. Mike Minor has a 1.93 ERA in five starts, and if it was his turn (he started last night), the Braves would go with him. Veteran Rodrigo Lopez has a 1.57 ERA in five starts, and if it was his turn (he went Wednesday), Atlanta would have placed the call for him.

 

If Teheran throws a perfect game on Saturday in Philadelphia, he's heading back to Gwinnett. Tomorrow night's start is a reward for a job well done, and it should also be a fantastic learning experience, as he'll face a difficult opponent on the road.

 

In five starts this year for Triple-A Gwinnett, Teheran has a 1.80 ERA while allowing 25 hits over 30 innings, walking eight and striking out 25. After struggling with his command in an ugly second start, he has been a strike-throwing machine, walking two over 20 1/3 innings in his last three outings while averaging a highly efficient 13.3 pitches per frame.

 

A scout currently in his fourth decade of evaluating players was gushing over Teheran today. “I've never put a higher grade on a 20-year-old pitcher in my career.” Going deeper into Teheran's arsenal explains why. “He was 92-96 for me while averaging 95, and the pitch is hitter-untrackable, as he hides his arm behind his back and it explodes on hitters. That combination of arm velocity and deceptive velocity is a rare and beautiful thing.”

 

The secondary offerings earn nearly as much praise. “It's an average curveball right now, but I put a projectable 60 on it,” the scout continued. “While the changeup is a present 60 than could end up a 70 down the road. On my scouting report, under weaknesses, I simply put, 'no glaring weaknesses.'”

 

All that stuff is wrapped into a long-armed, six-foot-two, 175-pound frame with issue-free mechanics. “He works from the third-base side, which I love in a right-hander,” the scout said. “It's a compact, closed delivery with great arm action and a nice on-line finish.”

 

“There's power, there's touch and feel, and there's mound presence well beyond his 20 years,” the scout concluded. “He's going to be a number-one starter on a championship-level team.”

 If ever there was a time to be excited about a one-night-only show in baseball, it's tomorrow night.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

49 comments have been left for this article.

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