The Evolving Mystery of Julio Teheran

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Julio Teheran will start for the Atlanta Braves on Opening Day. This is the fifth consecutive Opening Day start for Teheran, cementing him in Braves lore alongside Greg Maddux and Warren Spahn.

Now, apart from this stat, there’s nothing to compare Teheran to the greatness of Maddux and Spahn. In fact, opening the season as Atlanta’s starter is the only consistent action Teheran has taken in a Braves uniform. Well, that and the expectations that follow any pitcher that has risen from top prospect to All-Star to the ace for a franchise five years running.

The Evolving Mystery of Julio Teheran

Every season, the Braves send Teheran to the mound to start the season. Every season the conversation starts on whether this will be the season he makes his ascension toward greatness. Some seasons—like 2014 and 2016—he’s worth the hype. When he’s on, Teheran should be recognized as one of the best young pitchers in baseball. Combine that with only $19 million owed through 2019 and a team option for 2020 and Teheran is one of the most valuable young assets any major league team could have.

Other seasons—such as 2015 and last season—Teheran is a bottom feeder amongst National League right-handers. When he’s struggling at the mound, Teheran ranks top-five in both home runs and walks allowed in the National League. Hitters crush balls against him at SunTrust Park. Now it does take time to adjust to a new ballpark. Plus to end the 2017 season he did seem to control his presence enough to be dominant. But that was one month and he didn’t have success keeping balls from leaving the ballpark at Turner Field either. Although Teheran is heading toward his prime years, his ability has already been defined: inconsistent.

The Future for Julio Teheran in Atlanta

In short, the performance of Julio Teheran on a start-to-start basis is an overwhelming mystery that continues to evolve from competence to catastrophe. Is he the ace of the staff or a trade candidate? Unfortunately for the Atlanta front office, he’s neither or both.

For instance, when Teheran was shining brightest in 2014 and 2016, his trade potential was also at its highest. Especially in 2016, when Atlanta had already committed to the full rebuild, trading away every young talent they had apart from Teheran and all-world slugger Freddie Freeman. Interestingly, the front office held on to him, with the belief that his 2016 season—the best of his young career—would provide the emphasis of the “complete” Teheran, heading into his prime years. Instead, Teheran had the worst year of his career in 2017.

No matter how well Teheran performs, his biggest value is his contract. The Atlanta Braves own that contract and if Teheran were to turn a positive first half, many teams would be champing at the bit for his services. At this point in his career, however, his inconsistency overshadows his performance. With all the young pitching talent Atlanta has stowed away, Teheran takes up enough space that he warrants being forced out.

The Merit of Julio Teheran

No matter how Teheran’s season turns out, there is one thing for certain: On Opening Day, he will start—as he has his whole career—for the Atlanta Braves. So, in reality, there is one thing Teheran has in common with Maddux and Spahn. For a certain period of Braves fandom, he has consistently taken the rubber to start the season. There is merit in that. Opening Day is a beautifully emotional day in baseball, for all fans. Whether your team is competing for a World Series or starting a rebuilding stretch that will produce horrendous baseball for multiple seasons, Opening Day is the chance to start 1-0.

Teheran is the guy in Atlanta to try and get his team the best change to start 1-0. He’s done favorably so far, producing a 1.88 ERA in 24 innings pitched on Opening Day. Only the future knows if he’ll ever have the opportunity again for the Atlanta Braves.

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