Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The Atlanta Braves' pitching staff has come down with more injuries during camp than "True Detective" had philosophical diatribes from a mustachioed Matthew McConaughey, and they're making the development of one pitcher in particular pretty important.
The Braves already needed Julio Teheran to take a step forward in 2014 after letting Tim Hudson go in free agency, but with Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor all afflicted by various arm ailments, they may require him to take more than one.
Teheran was fantastic as a rookie, going 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP and 170 strikeouts in 185 2/3 innings, and his season actually flew under the radar due to the ace performances of other sub-24-year-old NL pitchers Jose Fernandez, Shelby Miller and Matt Harvey.
Teheran had a 2.81 ERA and a 158/38 K/BB over his last 169 2/3 innings after giving up 13 earned runs and five homers in his first 16 innings.
That included an eight-inning, one-hit, 11 strikeout start on June 5 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, when he had a no-hitter broken up with two outs in the eighth.
Teheran was one of the top strike-throwers in baseball last season, ranking 14th with a .475 zone percentage and ninth with a .654 first-pitch-strike percentage.
Hitters took their fair share of hacks at those pitches -- Teheran's zone- swing rate of 70.2 percent led baseball -- but couldn't get much wood on them.
Among qualified starters, Teheran had the fourth lowest zone-contact rate (z- contact%) in the majors at 83.1 percent, tied with Tigers starter Justin Verlander and just ahead of Rangers starter Yu Darvish.
When he threw the ball out of the zone, Teheran induced a swing 32.4 percent of the time, 24th in the majors.
We'd see a significant increase on his K/9 this season if he can get more swings and misses on pitches out of the zone (his o-contact% was 28th highest), but even if he cannot, generating contact on pitches out of the zone isn't the worst thing in the world. It usually leads to weak balls in play, fewer walks and shorter at-bats.
It appears Teheran still isn't getting his due credit from fantasy owners. He's been the 29th starter off draft boards with an aggregate average draft position (ADP) of 116 (average of Yahoo, ESPN, CBS, mockdraftcentral and nfbc.stats.com ADPs).
That's 22 picks behind Giants starter Matt Cain, who had a 4.00 ERA last season and even in his best all-around season in 2012 had 16 wins, a 2.79 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP and 193 strikeouts.
Twenty-eight picks separate Teheran and Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann, who won 19 games last year but had a 3.25 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP and 161 strikeouts in 213 1/3 innings.
And you'll have to select Minor 25 picks ahead of his teammate even though Minor possesses a similar ceiling to Teheran and had 3.21 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP and 181 strikeouts last season.
Teheran is in the same class as those pitchers and has a chance to move even higher in his second full year due to his ability to both live around the strike zone and keep the ball away from hitters.
The Braves' season may depend on him making that leap.