KISSIMMEE, Fla.—Reports on a pair of low minors games between the Braves and Tigers, in consultation with talent evaluators:
Cause for concern, or just a case of pitchers getting back into the groove?
Righthander Tommy Hanson’s stuff has impressed scouts this spring, but two of the Braves’ other top pitching prospects showed significantly decreased velocity on Thursday.
Lefthander Cole Rohrbough has thrown his fastball between 92-94 mph, but he also battled an ankle injury and rotator cuff tendinitis last season. On Thursday his fastball sat at just 86-90 mph. Rohrbough’s 77-79 mph curveball is still a plus pitch, but it was his only above-average offering on Thursday. Rohrbough threw an occasional 73-75 mph changeup, though they weren’t very good and he couldn’t throw the pitch for a strike. Rohrbough doesn’t make full use of his lower half in his delivery, which might be related to last season’s ankle injury, or it could just be his mechanics.
Righthander Julio Teheran’s velocity was down as well. Teheran, one of the top international signings in 2007 when he signed out of Colombia for $850,000, has thrown 90-93 mph in the past and been up to the mid-90s. On Thursday, the 18-year-old pitched with his fastball at 87-91 mph. Like Rohrbough, Teheran has also had some troubling issues with his shoulder, which limited him to just 15 innings last year in the Rookie-level Appalachian League.
Teheran’s arm action is problematic and seems to have changed from what it was before. In the past, scouts have said his arm action was relatively free and easy; now his arm action lacks fluidity and he doesn’t stay behind the ball, which makes it difficult for a pitcher to throw as hard as Teheran used to throw. Teheran might have changed to compensate for his shoulder problems, but right now his arm action doesn’t appear to bode well for his durability.
While Teheran’s control also still has a ways to go, the good news is that his changeup remains an excellent pitch and his curveball showed promising signs as well. Teheran’s 80-81 mph change was a swing-and-miss pitch against both righties and lefties, and he used the pitch liberally. His 71-73 mph curveball wasn’t a power pitch, but it showed promising flashes, albeit not on a consistent basis. It reminded me a little bit of James McDonald’s curveball; it’s not a power breaker, but when it was on it had good depth, tight break and caught several hitters out front.
Perhaps the most impressive player at the Braves’ minor league complex on Thursday was 17-year-old Christian Bethancourt, the Panamanian catcher Atlanta gave $600,000 to last year. Bethancourt didn’t play in a game, but he showed a good swing and power to all fields in batting practice. Baseball America subscribers will have access to more scouting information on Bethancourt next week.
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