Just 19 years old, Julio Teheran
has racked up some impressive numbers in just four starts with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
Manager Rocket Wheeler believes the beanpole right-hander with an effortless delivery hasn't yet reached his full potential -- a scary thought for those hitters currently swinging and missing, or just looking.
"He'll grow, get stronger, mature and learn more," said Wheeler when asked about Teheran's upside. "All he's going to do is learn and get better."
But Teheran, considered one of the top pitching prospects in the Atlanta Braves' farm system, is already pretty impressive. Since his promotion last month from Class A Rome, Teheran is 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 26 innings for Myrtle Beach. Throw in his totals from Rome and Teheran is 4-2 with a 1.10 ERA and 77 K's in 65 1/3 frames. The strikeout total ranks him third in Minor League baseball.
"The 1-2-3 he has, he's able to command them, he's not afraid to throw them, and he's willing to use them anywhere in the count," said Pelicans pitching coach Kent Willis.
Teheran possesses a mid-90s fastball with movement and can consistently place the pitch where he wants, when he wants. Throw in a plus-changeup that drops into the low-80s and a power curve, and you've got the makings of a front-line starting pitcher.
Using teammate Angelo Paulino as a translator, Teheran explained that he enjoys the cat-and-mouse game of pitching -- trying to figure out and exploit a hitter's weakness, and keeping a batter guessing about what's coming.
"I try to work more intelligently," Teheran said. "I work on what I think the hitter's not thinking he's going to see. You see the weakness of the hitter and that's what you try to go for."
When he thinks his hard stuff will overmatch a hitter, Teheran is comfortable with his fastball. The changeup is effective when he has hitters looking for heat. And there are Major League hitters who have trouble hitting a good curve, much less Class A prospects.
"It's very [rare]. You don't find a 19-year-old kid with the composure that he has already," Wheeler said. "All he needs is experience and innings. And, of course, we've got to see how he does when he gets in a jam."
So far, Teheran has faced little adversity. Nor is he distracted by an interest in radar gun readings. The 6-foot-2, 150-pound frame still has to fill out, though the whippy arm and gregarious smile bring to mind a young Pedro Martinez. But the eight-team Carolina League, where pitchers sometimes face the same team in successive starts, will offer a litmus test for the pitcher's abilities.
"We're developing the kid, but at the same time we're not taking away his aggressiveness," Willis said. "We're letting him be who he is without taking away his style of pitching. He likes to be on the mound. He likes to compete."
Hissey's drought ends: In a 5-4 win over Myrtle Beach on June 6, Salem OF Peter Hissey finally notched the first home run of his professional career, a third-inning solo shot that came in his 639th Minor League at-bat. Hissey was then the victim of one of baseball's longstanding ribs. After circling the bases, he was briefly ignored by his teammates before being mobbed in the dugout.
Back to their roots: Washington Nationals C Ivan Rodriguez helped draw a crowd of 4,110 to Pfitzner Stadium for his one-game rehab assignment with the Potomac Nationals on June 7. Rodriguez, on the 15-day disabled list with lower back tightness, went 0-for-3. On the upside, the veteran backstop was expected to catch the Major League debut of the Nationals' top pitching prospect, Stephen Strasburg, in Washington, DC, on June 8. ... Veteran RHP Scott Proctor has been assigned to Myrtle Beach to continue his recovery from 2009 Tommy John surgery. Because he is not on the Atlanta Braves' 40-man roster, the 33-year-old Proctor is not considered to be on a rehabilitation assignment and counts against the Pelicans' 25-man roster.
Target practice?: Winston-Salem 1B Seth Loman was hit by a pitch for the 20th time this season on June 6 in a game against Kinston. Four more plunkings and Loman will tie the Carolina League's single-season mark for being hit by a pitch. That dubious honor is held by Rusty Crockett, who was struck 24 times while with the Winston-Salem Spirit in 1989. Loman is on pace for 49.