Touki Toussaint got his first taste of the Majors in a spot start for the Braves on Aug. 13, only to be sent down a day later to continue to polish his resume with Triple-A Gwinnett. This latest addition to his body of work should help his case to be back soon.
The Braves' No. 7 prospect has been named International League Pitcher of the Week after he struck out eight and scattered three hits and a walk over seven scoreless innings at Durham last Thursday. This is Toussaint's second career Pitcher of the Week award; he was also honored with Double-A Mississippi in the Southern League on Aug. 21, 2017.
With Thursday's gem, Toussaint improved to 4-0 with a 1.62 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 49 strikeouts and 15 walks over seven starts with Gwinnett this season. He's posted a 2.49 ERA with 156 strikeouts in 130 1/3 innings overall in the Minors this season, which includes time in Mississippi. That level of performance made it easy for the Braves to summon the 22-year-old right-hander to the Majors two weeks ago for a spot start at home against the Marlins, and he didn't disappoint, giving up one earned on two hits and two walks in six frames.
Video: Gwinnett's Toussaint notches eighth strikeout
With a mid-to-upper 90s fastball and plus curve with plenty of shape, Toussaint has long had the stuff to overpower hitters in the Minors, but he's taken off in the control department during his climb through the Atlanta system in 2018. Dating back to when the D-backs took him 16th overall in the 2014 Draft, the 6-foot-3 hurler has walked Minor League batters at a rate of 11.1 percent over his five pro seasons. That number has dropped to 9.4 percent between Gwinnett and Mississippi this season, helping Toussaint's 2.49 season ERA easily clear his previous best of 3.88. Same for his 1.14 WHIP, which is beating out his previous season low of 1.33.
Back at the Futures Game while representing Haiti on the World roster, MLB.com's No. 75 overall prospect said the improvement was all about getting back to basics.
• View the Offensive Player of the Week winners »
"Honestly, I stopped thinking about mechanics," he told MiLB.com. "I started thinking about playing a catch. It's a game. Honestly, that's what pitching is. You're just playing catch at an accelerated pace. That was the biggest adjustment I made.
"My catch play wasn't always great. I started taking that seriously every day, and in the offseason, I started seeing results. Getting on my back leg and playing catch. I used to stand up, flip the ball and get my arm going. But I started getting on my back leg, playing catch and I started seeing results in my bullpens more. Everything else has worked off that."
Once he simplified his approach, Toussaint was able to get into the nuts and bolts of his approach on the mound, and Gwinnett pitching coach Reid Cornelius has noticed a difference.
"The big thing Touki talks about and works on here lately is keeping his posture going to the plate and ... sometimes he bends a little too much at the waist and drops a little bit in the slot and the ball runs up and sinks," Cornelius said on last week's MiLB.com podcast. "When he stays upright and a little bit taller, the ball sinks really well. He's been aggressive in the zone. It's just a matter of him getting more experience out there on the mound."
Toussaint joined Kolby Allard, Max Fried, Luiz Gohara and Bryse Wilson as notable pitchers on the active Gwinnett roster to make Major League starts for Atlanta in 2018, and No. 2 prospect Kyle Wright is doing all he can in Triple-A to join that group at some point before the season ends. With the Braves holding a three-game lead over the Phillies in the National League East race, Atlanta will need all the help it can get in September when rosters expand, so it's likely that Toussaint & Co. haven't gotten their last sniff of the Majors in 2018. But before then, the Stripers pitching coach wants to make sure the right-hander and others don't get too ahead of themselves.
"When you take the ball here, go out and do the job," Cornelius said on the podcast. "That's basically how we look at it. It could be anybody at any time right now that's pitching well. You just have to be prepared when your name's called."
Below is the complete list of Minor League Pitchers of the Week for Aug. 20-26:
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K
||1-0, 0.75 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 12 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 14 K
||2-0, 0.61 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 14 2/3 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 16 K
||2-0, 0.69 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 13 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 13 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 1 BB, 10 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 1 SHO, 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 1 SHO, 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 3 BB, 3 K
||2-0, 0.69 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 13 IP, 13 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 14 K
||0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K
||0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 1/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 HBP, 1 BB, 10 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 1/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 0 GS, 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 6 K