It's the biggest international signing for the Braves since a kid named Elvis came aboard two and a half years ago, and it has the front office just a tad bit excited.
"We got him," said Johnny Almaraz, the Braves' Director of Latin American Operations. "If you had a wish list, he'd be right at the top."
The Braves signed sixteen-year-old Julio Teheran to a contract Monday, the first day for international signings. He's a 6'2½", 175-pound right-handed pitcher from Colombia that was rated as the top pitcher on the international market this summer.
Teheran has a fastball that ranges from 91-94 mph along with a plus curve and plus changeup. The Braves have followed Teheran for two years, seeing most of his starts. When he turned sixteen in January the Braves increased their interest and made him the top target.
"We're extremely happy," said Almaraz, who has seen Teheran four times himself in person. "This kid is some type of talent. Julio is a power arm. He's everything we look for in a pitching prospect. He's a very special prospect because he's so young and he has the pitchability that not many young kids have. He's a right-handed pitcher that just has an idea of how to pitch."
"He commands three pitches in the strike zone, and they are all average to above average pitches. To find a pitcher with command for these pitches is very rare. He's the best 16-year-old I've ever seen that possesses both command and the stuff at the same time."
A Braves' scout that assisted Almaraz happened to live in Teheran's hometown in Colombia, so the organization was able to build a good relationship with the young prospect. The Braves' reputation in Colombia, and even the presence of Edgar Renteria, one of the top major leaguers from that country, helped seal the deal to get Teheran signed.
"He is a big Braves' fan," Almaraz explained. "He wanted to be a Brave. It really played a big part. We really wanted this kid. We bared down and followed him the entire year and we're just fortunate to negotiate a contract with him today."
The Braves will send Teheran to their complex in the Dominican Republic. He'll get some innings this summer in the Dominican Summer League and then go to the Instructional League in Florida this October. Then there's a chance Teheran will play with the Gulf Coast League Braves next summer.
"What's important is that he acclimates himself to our program so he can make the adjustment into a daily routine into professional baseball," said Almaraz. "We're here to guide him. We'll develop a program for him and challenge him at every level. He's got tons of ability, but we don't want to rush him."
The Braves expect to sign several more international players (including one more possibly later today), but they have their main target off the board in Teheran.
"It's always nice to get that premium arm in your organization," Almaraz said. "We're ecstatic."
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta and 105.5 the Fan in Macon. Email Bill at email@example.com.
First on The Braves Show: Julio Teheran
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