On June 20th, the Braves acquired pitching prospect Touki Toussaint and Bronson Arroyo (well, mainly his contract) from the Diamondbacks for Phil Gosselin. In what was widely panned as a blatant short-sighted money dump by the Diamondbacks, the trade continued the Braves' willingness to take on short term financial liabilities (such as Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin come to mind...although the latter looks like a steal as well now) to further stock the farm system with young talent. Touki was the 16th overall pick in the 2014 draft right out of high school and many wonder why the Diamondbacks would give up such a promising prospect. Despite that, it's a well-known fact that prospects are almost always a gamble and Touki is no exception, especially when you how young he is (19) and that he does have some issues with this delivery that make you wonder if his arm can hold up or if he will every get full control over his admittedly stellar talent.
With that in mind, we are announcing a new series here on Talking Chop that should make followers of the minor leagues rather happy. Garrett Spain, or as many may know him on Twitter as Braves Farm Updates (@BravesMILB), was on hand for a couple of games in Rome this weekend including Touki's first start in the Braves organization on Sunday (you can find the box score for the game right here). His line during the game was 4.1 IP with 1 ER on 2 hits with 5 walks, 5 strikeouts, and 2 HBP. Garrett was gracious enough to not only share his thoughts about what he saw in the game, but he also shared a lot of video that he personally took of Touki (and other players...more on that later). While Garrett is certainly not a professional scout, he has been and is one of the most avid followers of the Braves farm system out there and has a great depth of knowledge to draw from about the development of prospects. So without further ado, here are Garrett's thoughts on Touki Toussaint's debut:
Enjoy the video of his first outing!
Garrett, thanks for your time sir, we are excited to have you share your thoughts with Talking Chop. This was Touki's first start since being acquired from the Diamondbacks, what were your first impressions of him?
Thanks a lot, guys. Touki is a guy who is exactly what he was billed as. He has as much pure talent as any pitcher, but he is just very raw and no where close to major league ready. Despite his struggles with command, he kept his composure best I could tell. He just could not find his spot today
First, let's talk about that curveball of Touki's. What video that does exist on it makes it look like a plus-plus pitch...is that in line with what you saw in the game? Did he seem to have decent control of it?
I saw the curve only a handful of times, but when I did he really snapped it off nicely. He threw a bunch in warm ups, and even then he was shaky with his control. It is certainly his best pitch and you can see why he was coveted so much. If he can reign in his command of the curve, that pitch will be borderline unhittable. It was certainly no coincidence that his best inning came when he started to mix in his curveball to a couple of batters
The curveball is sharp but it seems the Braves may be doing the same thing Arizona did by limiting his usage of it. I don't know how I feel about that. Obviously I love to see him working on his other pitches, but at the same time I would like to see him get more work on commanding the curve
How did his fastball look? Was he staying in the 91-94 range to try to maintain control of it or was he throwing harder?
He showed his typical velocity today and from what I saw he had some good bite on a few of the pitches (broke a couple of bats). He never could find a consistent release point, though, and it showed with the walks and wild pitches he threw. He struggled and seemed very over-the-top with his delivery, which really hurt his command and flattened out some of his fastballs. From what I saw he will have to rely on the ride towards right handed batters that the pitch naturally has, as there isn't much depth to the pitch. It's not a pitch that will generate many ground balls so he may need to find something that can do that for him. It didn't help him much that catcher Bryan De La Rosa had some issues framing and blocking balls. The blame with his command problems falls mainly on Touki, though a more experienced catcher may have coaxed a few more strikes out of the umpire
He was definitely overthrowing, more so than his normal pitching. I wouldn't look too much into that given he may have just been trying to make a good impression with his new team.
A primary concern that has existed with Touki is with his delivery. At times he has had a tough time repeating his delivery and there certainly seems like there is a lot of effort when he is throwing. Did you see any issues?
That was a major issue today. He could never find any consistency with his motion and it took a major toll. In fact later in the game he abandoned throwing from the windup completely, likely to make his delivery more repeatable. His arm slot was a major factor in his performance today. He tended to alter his release point a lot, and he compensated for his early lack of command by releasing the ball closer to his body. His arm slot was at times almost straight over-the-top, which took a lot of command and life out of his fastball, and led to some of his pitches being given a cutter-like movement. He is going to need to tone down his delivery and hopefully as he gets older and fills out the velocity will come easier and he won't have to throw as hard
With the curve and fastball's being his two best pitches, did you see him mixing his changeup in much? Arizona seemed to want him to focus on getting that pitch up to par. Was it effective when he did throw it?
He did mix in the pitch a lot actually. It was his primary offspeed option and showed some good movement. There is certainly some potential there, but he had zero control over where his changeup was going. The pitch had some good run and the velocity difference was perfect. He also did a good job on not altering his delivery when throwing the pitch, which will help the deception as he learns to control his changeup better. It is easily his least advanced pitch and he had more difficulty throwing it for strikes than any of his other pitches. The pitch has a long way to go but it could be an effective big league offering down the road
How did he look during the course of the game? He has come across as a very athletic player, did he seem to be able to maintain his velocity and control as he went later in the game?
He definitely maintained his velocity, but the control was never there. As I said before he made an effort later in the game to help his control by going solely to the stretch. That seemed to do some good, but it just was not enough in this game. He definitely has a very athletic frame and with some work should be able to pick up on the teachings of the Braves very well.
Is there anything else we need to know about Touki? This is our first look at him, so everyone wants to know just how badly we fleeced the Diamondbacks.
He was a very frustrating player today for me. I can just see the potential and ability, but at the same time I can see so much that needs work. I think in a more typical environment where he is used to his teammates and catcher he will be a lot better. He did a good job of limiting damage today and I was impressed with his composure. It will also be a good idea to keep an eye on what pitches he is throwing. A couple of his fastballs seemed to feature a cut to them, so it will be interesting to see if he's developing a cutter or if that was a product of his inconsistencies on his release. It's gonna take some time but this could be a major steal. At the same time, the Braves may have just thrown a lot of money down the drain as he is far from a sure thing. It's a waiting game at this point (as it is with virtually all prospects this young) but I hope to get another opportunity to see him pitch in the future. One game is very difficult to draw conclusions from.
To be continued
That's all we have for now, although expect to see more reports like this on other players very soon. We want to thank Garrett Spain again for his help with the video as well as sharing his thoughts from the game. While in the short term these reports will be on Rome players, we will be covering prospects from other levels (especially AAA Gwinnett) soon as well.