It was a rough 2019 season for Touki Toussaint. The still young righty with the sometimes exciting stuff regressed after a promising 2018.
Toussaint finished 2019 making 24 appearances for the Atlanta Braves — 23 in relief — with a 5.62 ERA, a slightly better 4.99 FIP and a 1.68 WHIP. He struck out 45 and walked 26 over 41.2 innings, and yet somehow went a perfect 4-0. His 10 starts in Gwinnett were no better: Toussaint went 1-6 with a 7.49 ERA and 28 walks in 39.2 innings pitched with a 1.99 WHIP.
The 2019 season was what we’ve come to learn about Toussaint. Let’s take a look back at his year that was.
What went right in 2019 for Toussaint
Toussaint looked sharp in his 2019 MLB debut. He made one shaky three-inning start in Gwinnett before being recalled on April 13 and faced the New York Mets that very same day. Sean Newcomb got rocked in his start and Toussaint came in to put out the fire, going six innings allowing just one unearned run while striking out seven and walking two.
Toussaint picked up his first victory of the season. It was arguably his best appearance all year as he would get lit up for seven runs in 1.1 innings a week later and get sent back down to Gwinnett. That began his time on the Gwinnett Shuttle, splitting his time almost evenly between the big leagues and International League.
What went wrong in 2019?
We all know the story with Toussaint by now. The 23-year-old righty came to the Braves as a project in 2015 with a big fastball, an ankle-buckling curve ball but stuff that was still very raw. He showed much improvement over the course of the 2016 season — his first full season with the Braves — establishing his changeup and becoming one of the stronger pitchers in the second half for the SAL champion Braves.
It’s always been about command for Toussaint and last year he looked like he took big steps forward with it. He struck out over 11-per-nine and walked 3.77-per-nine in 16 Double-A starts and his eight-start stop in Gwinnett was more of the same.
This year, it was all back to old Touki.
The strikeout rate was still solid, striking out over nine-per-nine at both the minor and major league level, but the walks were way too high. It was a batter-by-batter basis as well, working deep counts and throwing a lot of pitches even on his strikeouts. Long outings were non-existent in his Gwinnett starts, not going six inning in any of the 10 he made. He was hit often and hard, and perhaps most uncharacteristically, righties owned him in Triple-A, teeing off at a .329 lick. That’s always been a strength of Toussaint’s.
What can we expect in 2020 for Toussaint?
Right now, it’s tough to say. With three solid pitches (when they are working), Toussaint ideally still has starter potential, and let’s not forget: the righty is still a mere 23 years of age. With his command struggles, he seems destined for the bullpen at the MLB level with the hopes of firing off his stuff in smaller doses. He’ll have a role — likely in the pen — in 2020, but it all starts with that command. If he can find out what ailed him and get back to the strides he made in 2018, Toussaint can still become an effective weapon for the Braves.