Teheran ready to be Atlanta's ace

Julio Teheran took another positive step this season, and the best is undoubtedly yet to come for the young right-hander.

The day Julio Teheran was signed, July 2, 2007 he was billed as a future star. He then went to minor league spring training the next March at the age of 17 and showed everyone why he was given a high dollar amount to sign with the Braves. Teheran wowed everyone who watched and showed he was a special talent.

Seven years later he’s become the ace of the Braves’ rotation. Teheran has had two straight solid seasons, and as he enters 2015 as a 24-year-old, there’s little doubt Teheran is the future of the Atlanta pitching staff.

But does Teheran have the ability to be one of the best pitchers in the National League? That’s really what the Braves need. It’s one thing to be a rotation’s number one starter, but can he be one of the best pitchers in his division and in the game?

It certainly seems like it. That’s why the Braves gave him a long-term contract that could keep him in Atlanta through 2020. They need him to be that good. They need him to be one of the best pitchers in baseball.

The last two years Teheran has won 14 games each season. He had 25 quality starts this past season and 22 in 2013. But Teheran made strides this season to show he’s becoming a big-game pitcher.

In the first half of the 2014 season, Teheran was 9-6 with a 2.71 earned run average in 20 starts. In the second half, his overall numbers were still solid (76 hits in 84.2 innings, 21 walks and 70 strikeouts) but his record was 5-7 and his ERA was 3.19.

Teheran was clearly a victim of Atlanta’s bad offense late this season, as he had a 1-4 record in September despite a 2.81 earned run average. In his last two losses of the season, the Braves scored only two runs on offense. Teheran allowed only two earned runs in 15 innings of work against the Rangers and Mets, but it was not enough as the Braves’ bats were cold.

Teheran has proven he can be a pitcher that can be near the 200-inning mark. He’s averaged 203 innings in his first two years as a starter. He would have won more than 14 games this season if the Braves offense had given him more run support. But the ERA is a good indicator that Teheran is ready to pitch at a high level. He was 19th in the major leagues and 13th in the NL with his 2.89 ERA.

Combine him with Alex Wood and the Braves have a pretty good one-two punch. Wood was 15th in the majors with his 2.78 ERA and his complimentary numbers were even better than Teheran’s.

The Braves don’t have to worry about Teheran’s escalating contract, though, since he was signed to a long-term deal last spring. It was perhaps the best deal former general manager Frank Wren made.

When you see how Teheran matches up with the other number one starters in the division, you have to look at Jordan Zimmerman with the Nationals, Jose Fernandez with the Marlins, Cole Hamels with the Phillies and Zach Wheeler with the Mets. In Teheran’s first two years, it seems his numbers are trending to where he will be able to stick with those other type pitchers.

The future is bright for Teheran, who should only get better. Teheran gives the Braves a true ace that should be in Cy Young contention for years to come.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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