Braves righthander Julio Teheran, regarded by many (including myself) as the #1 pitching prospect in baseball, made his major league debut last night against the Phillies.
Teheran, 20, became the first player born in 1991 to play in the big leagues, and his debut set off a lot of buzz.
I tuned into the young righthander’s outing to get a good look at his precocious arsenal. Here are some thoughts I had about how he pitched.
I expected to see a gangly righty with a somewhat awkward motion who whipped low-90’s heat, a nasty changeup, and an above-average curveball, and that’s pretty much what we got last night.
Teheran’s motion isn’t the cleanest, and it reminded me a little bit of Pedro Martinez‘s, actually. The slight pause at the top of his motion probably does create some deception, though, as he’s “all arms and legs” from there.
Teheran’s fastball showcased the expected low-90’s velocity. Unlike, say, Stephen Strasburg, Teheran’s prospect status isn’t a result of overwhelming velocity. He’s got plenty–he averaged 92.6 mph and touched 96–but what stood out about the pitch was its late snap in on right-handed batters.
Teheran mixed in a few curveballs with impressive downward action. He didn’t always know where the pitch was going, though, and didn’t go to it behind in the count. Coming in at an average on 74.3 mph, it wasn’t a particularly tight pitch, although its large amount of depth overcame this to some degree. Since Teheran only threw nine on the day, it’s difficult to draw firm conclusions about the curveball, although its low use says something in itself. Only four of the nine curves went for strikes, and none were swung at and missed.
Teheran’s always been known for his changeup, though, and even if I didn’t know that going in, it wouldn’t have been hard to pick up. The pitch has extremely impressive velocity separation from his fastball–11.5 mph, on average–and it has all sorts of running and sinking action that make it a nightmare for lefties. Teheran’s first (and only) MLB strikeout came on a front-door change to Raul Ibanez that started way inside off the plate before coming back over the inside corner–a truly unhittable pitch. Unlike with the curveball, Teheran showed plenty of confidence in the changeup, throwing it 23 times.
There’s no question that Teheran’s stuff will play in the majors. With three pitches, all at dramatically different speeds, that all move all over the place, he’s going to be unhittable if he throws strikes and locates his stuff.
The problem with Teheran’s debut was that he occasionally didn’t do that. He overthrew his fastball on a number of occasions, leaving it way up and out of the zone, and his curve and change kept diving below the knees. When he fell behind in the count, Teheran threw his fastball over the middle of the plate, which can work in the minors but not in the majors. That led to a long Ryan Howard homer on a 2-0 pitch and a Shane Victorino triple on a 3-1 pitch, which were his biggest mistakes of the day. Teheran must learn to throw something offspeed in those counts, or at least get the fastball on the corners of the plate, because MLB hitters will crush meatballs like those.
Of course, he’s just 20, and some minor refinement in pitch patterning (not to mention Teheran simply getting over the jitters of making his MLB debut) should eliminate those issues. The sky is still the limit for the young righty, and there’s no question he has the arsenal to be a truly elite MLB hurler.