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Braves prospect retrospect: Julio Teheran

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Let’s take a look back at the Atlanta Braves once-top pitching prospect who became an Opening Day staple.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The life and times for Julio Teheran in an Atlanta Braves uniform was a tumultuous ride. Once a top-5 prospect in baseball, Teheran was expected to be the ace of the Braves rotation for years to come. And although he pitched in the top spot for many years, he didn’t quite live up to the lofty expectations.

By no means was it all bad. In fact there were some very good seasons.

Julio Teheran, the Braves top MiLB prospect

Teheran was signed by the Braves in July of 2007 as the top 16-year-old pitcher in his signing class. He had a fastball that touched the low-90s and solid secondaries. Just how good was he? Baseball America put him in the Braves’ top-10 prospects after the signing without seeing one professional pitch, anointing him with the best fastball in the system.

He debuted the following year for Danville as a mere 17-year-old. He toiled with some shoulder problems and only threw 15 innings before making it to Rome as an 18-year-old the following season. Heading into 2010, Teheran was named the No. 51 prospect in all of baseball and in 2011 and 2012, he was a consensus top-5 prospect, his four-seamer now in the mid-90s and the innings racking up.

And then 2012 happened.

Teheran looked great in 2011 in Gwinnett going 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, and even made his big league debut. He was working with the Braves on new mechanics in 2012 and the numbers showed. His second tour of duty in Gwinnett was a forgettable one, his ERA ballooned to 5.08 and his WHIP rocketed up to 1.44 as the home runs were leaving the ballpark aplenty. Teheran gave up 18 dingers, 13 more than his big 2011.

Heading into 2013, Teheran was a top-100 prospect for the fourth year in a row and he would make his official entry into the Braves rotation.

Julio Teheran, the Braves ace?

Despite a slow start, Teheran’s rookie debut went rather well. It’s remarkable that with all those ups and downs mentioned above, Teheran was a rookie at the mere age of 21. Six years a prospect, you sometimes forget how young he was when he truly started on his MLB path.

He finished 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 170 strikeouts. It earned him the 2014 Opening Day start, a spot Teheran would become accustomed to throughout his Braves tenure.

Teheran took that start and rolled with it tall the way to arguably the best year of his entire career. He earned All-Star honors in 2014 and finished with 14 wins, a 2.89 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP, a career-high 186 strikeouts and two of his career three shutouts.

He became the Opening Day starter for six-consecutive seasons, the most by an Atlanta Brave and tied with Warren Spahn for the most in franchise history. The career spawned from those Opening Day starts was an emotional rollercoaster for Teheran and fans alike.

Julio Teheran seven years later

The epic saga of Julio Teheran in Braves Country ended prior to the 2020 season. The Braves declined his option and he signed with the Los Angeles Angels. He made three horrific starts for the Angels and has since been moved to the bullpen.

An amazing reminder: Teheran won’t turn 30 until January of 2021. His baseball chronicles seem like a lifetime of adventures and he’s not even 30.

All in all, Teheran was 77-73 in 226 starts for the Braves. He struck out 1,184 (a top-10 mark in Braves history).

So, how will Julio be remembered? In this humble author’s opinion, I hope it is in a positive light. No, Teheran never met the lofty expectations placed upon him, but he’s a lesson to those that often forget: prospects don’t rank themselves.

Ranked as a top-10 Braves prospect before the legal voting age, you could argue the only place Teheran had to go was down. But really, he never hit rockbottom. He was in the Braves rotation for seven consecutive seasons and made 30 starts in every one of them. From 2014-2018, the Braves averaged 71.5 wins a season, and every five days, Teheran was out there, never hearing a peep about wanting to be traded or saying (or doing) the wrong thing.

Teheran was an ace by position in the Braves rotation, but hardly a true ace. The velocity never really built and he was seemingly always below average for righties in that department. While his career ERA (3.67) is certainly more than admirable, a comparison to his FIP (4.23) show a better picture.

Teheran was a wonderfully average pitcher who showed up every fifth day.

He was not an overly ground ball-friendly pitcher and certainly a little susceptible to long ball throughout — and especially later in — his career (allowing the sixth-most in Braves history). When the walks caught up to him in the final few seasons with the Braves, and he couldn’t aggressively get hitters out like he used to, he looked more a back-of-the-rotation innings guy than anything close to an ace.

Teheran was clearly never the ace the Braves had hoped he would be, but he was as dependable as they come, for good and for bad.

Don’t forget to keep up with the Talking Chop retrospect series. Here’s who we’ve looked at so far in our Braves prospect retrospect series.