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Now is the Time to Sell Julio Teheran

Julio Teheran has been a fantasy stud the last two seasons, fulfilling the hopes of dynasty leaguers who have watched him grow from an uber-elite prospect into a legitimate ace hurler. Still only 23 years old with his health intact, it seems he is poised to dominate the league for years to come. So why am I advising you to trade him? Because there are some red flags in his underlying peripheral stats that warn of darker days ahead. In my opinion his value is higher right now than it ever will be again, so this winter is the ideal time to cash him in and invest in a safer commodity.

The Good Stuff

Teheran’s 2014 season was a fantasy owner’s dream: 14-13 record, 2.89 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 186 strikeouts spread over 221 innings. That excellent production drove a high proportion of his owners to league championships. It is no surprise that he finished the season ranked as the 14th best starting pitcher in 5×5 leagues and a top 50 overall player regardless of position. Given his  youth and name recognition, Teheran would be one of the first pitchers taken in new dynasty leagues having their inaugural drafts. His trade value is sky high.

The not so Good Stuff

His luck stats all show that he was a little bit fortunate though. His .267 BABIP, 75.9% Strand Rate and .90 HR/9 were all better than one expects for a pitcher with a very low 34.8% ground ball rate. These are all indications that Teheran will experience some regression in those stats next year and beyond, which will of course harm his ERA and WHIP. The Braves’ ballpark has a reputation as a pitchers’ park but that is undeserved. Turner Field has had a 99 Park Factor the last three years, meaning it is a very neutral field that actually does not favor pitchers. Teheran is a strong flyball pitcher, so the loss of the league’s best defensive outfielder in Jason Heyward could have a negative effect on Teheran’s stats as well.

Teheran’s 2.89 ERA looks much sexier than his 3.49 FIP, 3.72 xFIP and 3.68 SIERA. Unfortunately, those advanced pitching metrics do a much better job of predicting the future. That means you should expect Teheran’s 2015 ERA to rise into the 3.50 – 3.70 range next year. His WHIP will rise in similar fashion. That is still good but pretty ordinary in today’s low run scoring environment. A pitcher with an ERA over 3.50 is not likely to be a top 40 fantasy starting pitcher. Very few pitchers are able to outperform their peripherals year after year. Johnny Cueto and Jered Weaver are the only two in recent memory. The chances are not good that Teheran will match that duo. The vast majority of pitchers who outperform their peripherals for awhile end up crashing back to Earth eventually, and that is what will likely happen to Teheran if history is any guide.

Teheran relies on his low ERA and WHIP to provide the bulk of his fantasy value, and we have seen those stats are likely to rise. He has earned 14 Wins each of the last two seasons. That is good but not elite. If the Braves are truly in rebuild mode and continue trading away offensive players then we should expect Teheran’s wins to dwindle accordingly. His 7.57 K/9 strikeout rate is essentially league average for starting pitchers. Again, that is OK but it is not a sign of an elite pitcher. What we have here is a pitcher who currently has elite value in dynasty leagues (due to his stellar 2014 stats and young age), yet is not likely to provide elite production next year. A player with more trade value than production value is a prime sell high candidate.

Teheran has also been losing velocity. Now at 92 mph, his 4-seam fastball has fallen 2 mph over the last three years. That is not a killer but it is worrisome. Most pitchers gradually lose velocity as they age, but Teheran is only 23 years old. His velocity is still a little bit above average, but if it continues to drop at the current rate it won’t be long before his fastball is merely average and then below average at a young age. The velocity is nothing to freak out about but it is something to monitor closely if you are planning to keep him on your roster or trade for him. Velocity loss is a strong sign of arm damage. It could be a sign of impending injury, or it could just be wear and tear that will not prevent him from pitching. Either way it is not a good thing, but might not be catastrophic. Some pitchers can still be very effective even with average velocity but it reduces the margin for error and makes things much more difficult. By itself the velocity loss is not a reason to jettison Teheran. It is just one more cautionary factor to consider when weighing the pros and cons of relying on him.

One other warning sign is that Teheran threw far more innings in 2014 than he ever has before. His 221 innings surpass the 185 innings he tossed in 2013 by a wide margin. Large innings increases have been shown to contribute to an increased chance of injury the following season. Teheran is not little (6’2″, 200lbs) but he isn’t one of the bigger pitchers either. High innings totals are especially risky for smaller pitchers. Workload is just one more minor factor that tips the scale toward caution when it comes to Teheran’s future value.

Projections for 2015 and beyond

Fangraph’s 2015 Steamer projections for Teheran do not predict another top 15 caliber season for him: 10-11 record, 3.80 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 158 strikeouts. Those numbers are remarkably similar to the 2014 seasons of Tom Koehler and Shelby Miller, and they were barely top 100 starting pitchers in 5×5 leagues. I think Steamer is a little bit harsh on Teheran. My prediction is a 12-10 record, 3.50 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 168 Ks in 200 innings. Those numbers are similar to Chris Archer or Jason Hammel in 2014, or what would be a top 60 starting pitcher. That is still a useful fantasy pitcher, but not the stellar results you are expecting from Teheran.

Even if he beats those projections he is still very unlikely to match his 2014 season again soon. As it stands right now his mastery of his repertoire is not good enough to produce elite peripherals, and therefore is unlikely to produce another elite fantasy season. Teheran may end up producing more excellent seasons in the future if he continues to perfect his craft and improve his peripherals. He is still plenty young enough to show genuine growth in his underlying skillset as he gains experience. That could result in better advanced metrics that translate into great ERA, WHIP and K numbers, but that is a big if. Why take that risk if you don’t have to? If you are going to take a risk  you should only do so if there is a potential gain. By keeping Teheran you are taking the risk that Teheran improves his skills enough to keep his current value. There is no upside, only downside if he doesn’t improve his skillset. If you want Teheran for the long haul I suggest you trade him for a high price now, wait a year for his value to fall, then buy him back at a lower price next winter.

The Verdict

Julio Teheran has built up a lot of name recognition and trade value amongst fantasy baseball team owners. If you were to trade him you could snare a very nice haul in return. If you put him on the trade market be sure to tout his stellar 2013-2014 stats, elite prospect pedigree and youthful age. All of those things have extreme value in dynasty leagues. You can almost name your price for this guy. This is exactly what I advise you to do. There are plenty of warning signs that indicate Teheran’s value is at its peak. Cash in that value to obtain a superstar player who will carry your team much further than tomorrow’s diminished version of Julio Teheran would.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. If you trade him be sure to share your haul with us!

I  have been spending this offseason focusing on starting pitchers. To crush your competition, improve your pitching staff by reading these recent columns as well:

Yordano Ventura: Buy or Sell?

Dallas Keuchel: Can We Trust Him in 2015?

Is Carlos Carrasco an Ace Now?

Danny Salazar is Still Sleeping

Ace Smackdown: Jon Lester vs Madison Bumgarner

New Ace Smackdown: Collin McHugh vs Matt Shoemaker

Young Ace Smackdown: Alex Cobb vs Alex Wood

Young Ace Smackdown: Danny Duffy vs Jake Arrieta

Nick Doran also writes at Fake Teams. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @BlazingFastba11.

The Author

Nick Doran

Nick Doran

17 Comments

  1. […] explains why now is the perfect time to trade Julio Teheran in your keeper/dynasty […]

  2. gorillakilla34
    November 25, 2014 at 6:34 pm — Reply

    I traded a $28 Teheran and a $1 Kris Bryant for a $40 McCutchen and a $1 Gerrit Cole this year in a 12 team keep 10 league around mid-to-end of July. This helped propel me to my first ever championship.

    • November 25, 2014 at 9:37 pm — Reply

      I love that deal. Congrats on the championship!

  3. Matt T.
    November 27, 2014 at 1:36 am — Reply

    I disagree with this and I’ll dig even deeper.

    Teheran has an elite FB(22.8% Whiffs/Swing) or 18th in 2014.(average sits at 16.4%)
    He has an very good Slider(35% Whiffs/Swings) or 17th in 2014(average sits at 31.5%)
    He has a curveball that is solid(32% Whiff/Swing) or top 40 in 2014(average sits at 28%)
    He has a solid sinker(15% Whiffs/Swing) average sits at 11%

    So we are talking about a guy with 3 very good pitches and another above average pitch. The strikeout rate should be trending up and the curve has reverse platoon splits. He pounds the strike-zone with 60.3% F-Strike% or 25th…next to Wainwright and Leake.

    You aren’t digging deep enough in my opinion. The underlying peripherals to the peripherals support that with a two fastballs that are above average and two quality curveballs support the ERA more than the FIP because the K% should go up by a biit.

    • November 27, 2014 at 1:48 am — Reply

      Interesting stuff Matt. We’ll see how it plays out next season. Given those swinging strike rates there is some reason for optimism. How do his overall swing rates and called strike rates compare to the league average? Why has he not been able to turn that swinging strike rate into actual strikeouts? I see the potential in Teheran for sure, but his trade value is so high you can swap him for a sure thing rather than a potential thing.

      • Matt T.
        November 27, 2014 at 6:58 pm — Reply

        Players swing at 50% of the pitches he throws(9th highest) and the called k% is slightly below average, but he is still an elite pitching in preventing contact.

        It could just sequencing that prevents the Ks from coming, which could improve. But I would expect the K/9 to be closer to 9 than the 7.6 he did this year. I think it is encouraging that he can still get elite levels of swings and misses on the fastball despite declining velocity. And if the K% rises, we are taking a top 20 fantasy pitcher. I’m not so much betting on Teheran getting better on an ERA type, but the peripheral scoming closer to the ERA>

      • Braves22
        November 28, 2014 at 4:03 pm — Reply

        I don’t know enough to explain all of it. But if you look at Teheran’s monthly splits each year, his FB velo rises and so does his K rates. I’m not sure why he does this. He could want to save his arm while he slowly rebuilds arm strength throughout the year. Or could want to give teams different looks as the year progresses. But come June/July and onward, his strikeouts start piling up without a big increase in walks.

  4. Matt T.
    November 27, 2014 at 1:40 am — Reply

    If combine them and look at SwgStk%, Teheran sat at 10.7%….or 9th Only Kluber,Hamels,Felix,Grienke,Scherzer,Strasburg,MadBum, and Shark were above him.

    You aren’t buying the most important skill for a pitcher….the ability to get swings and misses.

  5. November 30, 2014 at 9:46 pm — Reply

    What your stats fail to measure is his ability to hold baserunners and change delivery speeds to the plate. If you watch him a lot, you’ll see a guy who is highly abnormal in both of these regards. I know because I bet baseball for a living and have to decide which pitchers might legitimately outperform their peripherals over the long-term, and which will regress as expected. At this point, I’d Teheran has shown enough signs of being abnormal (over 430 IP) that you’d be foolish to expect a full regression to his peripherals. Obviously, if someone is paying you fully for a 2.90 ERA pitcher, sell him. But anything less than that, I’d dig deeper.

  6. December 5, 2014 at 6:37 pm — Reply

    Traded Teheran and Soler for Darvish in Dynasty … thoughts?

  7. December 5, 2014 at 6:38 pm — Reply

    Traded Teheran and Soler for Darvish in Dynasty….How’d I do?

    • December 6, 2014 at 3:52 am — Reply

      I like it. You already know what I think about Teheran. I think Soler is overvalued by most people based on his hot start to his MLB career. Darvish is one of the best pitchers in the game when healthy and has a much longer and stronger track record than Teheran.

  8. December 15, 2014 at 6:31 am — Reply

    […] Now is the Time to Sell Julio Teheran […]

  9. […] Now is the Time to Sell Julio Teheran. […]

  10. steve
    January 27, 2015 at 3:22 pm — Reply

    Am I going to get in trouble if I trade Greinke $41 for Teheran $10? Does the money savings outweigh all the negatives outlined in your article? In the end, at $10 he will technically be slotted as my 4th sp as I head into the draft.

    • January 27, 2015 at 6:15 pm — Reply

      Given the huge difference in salary your deal makes sense. I would make that trade, then shop Teheran immediately. Flip him in another deal for another inexpensive pitcher with better peripherals. Most people are not aware of the red flags in Teheran’s profile, so he still has a ton of trade value.

  11. […] warned everyone to avoid Teheran this offseason (read it here). I know he is a 24 year old coming off two consecutive excellent seasons. It seems like he is […]

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