Julio Teheran might not be a household name yet, he’s not up there with the Johnny Cuetos or Clayton Kershaw, but Atlanta Braves fans certainly know who he is. Teheran broke onto the scene in 2013, and at just 22-years-old, he took the MLB by storm. He finished the 2013 season 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA and 170 strikeouts. At this point, he wasn’t the ace of the staff, but his time was surely coming. The 2014 season was no different, in fact, Teheran even improved on his stats, finishing the year 14-13 with a 2.89 ERA, 186 strikeouts, and an All-Star appearance. In a season that was marred by inconsistent batting, the Braves pitching staff never faltered. The Braves finished fifth in the MLB in team ERA and had the most quality starts in the MLB. Teheran was a large contributor to that, as he finished the year with 25 quality starts, which was tied for second place in the MLB with his teammate, Aaron Harang. First place was Johnny Cueto with 29, so to be in the same breath as Cueto is big for a young pitcher like Teheran.
It also helped having a veteran like Ervin Santana on the staff. Santana was able to give the younger pitchers advice and guidance, especially Minor. With Medlen being out, and Minor being very inconsistent, it was up to Julio to take the reins and step up as the leader, which he did. Santana arguably has the best slider in baseball. In 2013, before Santana got there, 47 (or 28%) of Teheran’s 170 strikeouts came on his slider. In 2014, it just so happens that 74 (or 40%) of Teheran’s 186 strikeouts came on that his slider. It’s no coincidence that Teheran was able to use more of his repertoire since he had others to help him.
Alex Wood is a guy that will compliment Teheran well, as will Shelby Miller. Mike Minor last season seemed to be a little too much like a fluke, as he’s shown what he can do, but was coming off surgery, and had some bad outings. However, he did show what he’s capable of in a few games, and even took a no-hitter into the seventh against Cincinnati. Wood & Teheran will likely be the team’s one and two pitchers. Miller, Wood, and Minor are all older than Teheran, barely older, but his abilities and potential are what could make him the next great Braves pitcher. It also helps that he signed a six-year/$36 million extension, that will keep him in a Braves uniform until 2020.
This season, the Braves don’t have the offensive firepower of the last few seasons. Since they got rid of Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Evan Gattis, so not many people are picking them to do well. Especially since with those players, they finished last, or close to last in most offensive categories last season. It’s a new year, and Braves management remains hopeful, and they have a right to be, with the exception of a few bad contracts, they’re starting to re-tool the current roster.
Now, as the Braves prepare for the 2015 season, they will be doing it without Ervin Santana, Kris Medlen, and Aaron Harang in the rotation. Teheran is now in a position to become the leader of this pitching staff, as he’s solidified his role as the ace. Having a 24-year-old ace is risky. It’s a lot of pressure on such a young player to perform at a high level, especially in Atlanta, but Teheran is ready. With a pitching staff that’s made up of Teheran, Alex Wood, Shelby Miller, Mike Minor, and Eric Stults, or Wandy Rodriguez at the five-spot, the Braves are looking to be one of the top rotations in baseball again. Whether or not they have a better season at the plate remains to be seen, but Teheran is giving Braves fans a reason to be excited for years to come.