When a player is on an organization’s Top-10 prospects list for six straight years, expectations are high once they reach the major league level. Julio Teheran was given an opportunity for a spot in the Atlanta Braves rotation for 2013 and he never looked back, finishing fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting while posting the following numbers.
For fantasy players going into the season, Teheran was penciled in as a late-round must draft player. His draft stock rose by the week with each start during spring training where he finished with a 1.04 ERA in six starts.
With all young pitchers, expectations need to be tempered. Adjusting to hitters at the major league level takes time for any young pitcher. Julio did not get off to a strong start after posting tremendous numbers in spring training. Teheran’s owners were disappointed through the first month of the season. His ERA was 5.08 and it seemed as if his spring training heroics were nothing more than a flash in the pan.
Once May rolled around he found his footing in the Atlanta Braves rotation and began his ascent as one of the brightest young pitchers in the game. In May he posted an ERA of 2.60 with a WHIP of 1.06. At this point everyone in the fantasy world took notice, especially after owners released him onto the waiver wire at the end of April.
May was only a preview of things to come. He posted an even stronger June with an ERA of 1.95 and a WHIP of 0.96. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, combining for a one-hit shutout on the road against the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 5th. At this point, everyone in the baseball world realized that Julio Teheran was as good as advertised and he would go on to help the Atlanta Braves win the National League East with more dominant starts to come.
He finished the first half in dominating fashion, in part due a two seam and four seam fastball that clocks in between 92 and 94 mph. He throws the heater 64% of the time and the late movement he gets from it contributed to an 8.24 K/9 for the 2013 season. Teheran all but abandoned a change up in 2013 that at one time was his second best pitch. A slider emerged in his repertoire once he began working with Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell.
He gained confidence in his newly discovered slider throwing it 17.7% of the time. When he has an 0-2 count on a hitter he now trusts the slider to get hitters out. In his first full season as an Atlanta Braves starter, his slider has become a more dominant pitch than his fastball. It will only improve as he logs more innings.
An improving repertoire of pitches has given Teheran more control and a lower walk rate than what he posted in his 2011 and 2012 minor league seasons. His BB/9 of 2.81 in 2013 was the lowest walk rate in three years at the professional level, and I believe he can improve on that for 2014. Teheran is only going to improve his control as he gains more experience in Atlanta’s starting rotation.
You will get an outstanding WHIP with Teheran to go along with his excellent strikeout rate that was discussed above. His WHIP for the 2013 season was 1.17. This WHIP has shown to be very sustainable and should be going forward, as he has posted similar numbers throughout his career in the Atlanta Braves organization.
His 2.97 ERA that he posted in the second half of the season should see an increase for 2014. He had a strand rate above 80% which is a little on the high side. I expect an ERA above the 3.35 that he posted in the first half of the season. I see Teheran posting an ERA around 3.50 with a strand rate that is more in line with the league average around 72%. My projected ERA can be lower than 3.50 and possibly closer to an ERA of 3.00, but he’d have to continue to progress at the rapid pace he’s currently on.
A pitcher like Jose Fernandez in Miami will always be at a disadvantage because of the offense that he has supporting him. Julio Teheran is on an Atlanta Braves team that finished 4th in the National League in Runs. The Atlanta Braves offensive production will give him an additional three to five wins a year. He won 14 games in 2013. Although it is hard to forecast wins for a pitcher, I see him posting something close to 14 wins again with a ceiling of a possible 17 wins for an Atlanta team that will again be the frontrunner for the National League East title in 2014.
Teheran is near the top of my list of sleepers going into 2014 for all of the reasons I stated above. But bigger than all of those reasons, his draft position is the main reason I’m so high on him.
Owners will draft recognizable names such as Gio Gonzalez, Homer Bailey, and Jordan Zimmermann before they draft an equally talented Julio Teheran. His draft stock will be discounted based on him having less experience and owners drafting more recognizable names.
Add to the fact he plays on a team that will be with the league leaders in runs scored. He will only improve and become even more dominant in 2014. You must remember he will only be 23 years old going into next season. There is a huge amount of room for growth for a pitcher that young who has already exhibited dominant starts at the Major League level.
I expect him to begin to enter his prime during the 2016 season. Before he reaches that level he will post outstanding numbers for your fantasy league team this season.