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Braves Hope Julio Teheran Lives Up To Big New Contract

By Rich Arleo

CBS Local Sports, in our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.

Julio Teheran, Starting Pitcher, Atlanta Braves

2013 season: 30 G, 185.2 IP, 3.20 ERA, 1.174 WHIP, 14 W, 170 SO, 45 BB

Looking back at the Atlanta Braves’ off-season, their strategy seems clear: lock up the young talent. The front office’s biggest moves these past few months were the contract extensions given to 24-year-old first baseman Freddie Freeman, 25-year-old closer Craig Kimbrel, 24-year-old Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons and 23-year-old starter Julio Teheran. All are now under contract for the near future.

Freeman received a franchise-record eight-year, $135 million deal after putting forth his best season yet as the starting first baseman. Kimbrel’s four-year, $42 million extension comes after recording 138 saves for the team in the past three years. Those two extensions could be considered no-brainers. But the Braves also took some risks committing to Simmons for seven years after his first full season in the bigs and Teheran for six years after his rookie year.

But the extensions, while risky considering the potential for injury and other variables, could work out in their favor. Simmons won a Gold Glove in 2013 and could fill the Braves' starting shortstop role for the rest of the decade. Now Teheran, who won 14 games with a 3.20 ERA and 170 strikeouts to finish fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting, is cemented into the Braves rotation for what the team and Teheran hope are six great years. Looking at his 2013 season, that extension looks like it could be a bargain at $32.4 million.

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Heading into the 2014 season, the team looks at Teheran as the No. 3 starter behind Kris Medlen and Mike Minor. Teheran's fastball, which he threw 47 percent of the time last year, clocks in the low 90s. His next best pitch is a slider, which he threw about 18-percent of the time, followed by a tricky two-seam fastball and a curve ball. He had a SwStr% (percentage of strikes that were swung at and missed) of 10.5. For reference, his 10.8 SwStr% in the second half of the season was 18th in the majors, just behind Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg. So Teheran has no problem making hitters miss.

A top prospect when he hit the Braves’ minor league system in 2008 at age 17, he struggled a little with two rough but quick stints in the majors in 2011 and 2012 and a disappointing 2012 season in Triple-A. That year he had a 5.08 ERA and 1.443 WHIP in 131 innings. Nonetheless, he got a shot right out of the gate in 2013 and was able to stick after a slow start.

The Braves may look to push him a bit more this season as he reached the 7th inning just six times last year and not once after July. Still just 23, Teheran has plenty of room to develop as well. Even if he simply replicates his rookie year, Atlanta would have to be pleased with its No. 3 starter in the first year of a six-year extension.

Next up: Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals

Check out our Fantasy Baseball Preview, breaking down the top players at each position.

Rich Arleo is a Marist College alum who has been a professional writer and editor since graduating in 2010. Find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for more of his sports musings.

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