Touki Toussaint was another once-famed pitching prospect for the Atlanta Braves, but simply was unable to ever put it all together while with the club. He was passed by younger options on the internal depth chart and was eventually traded to the Angels for a fresh start.
The Braves acquired Touki Toussaint and Bronson Arroyo from the Diamondbacks in exchange for Phil Gosselin back during the 2015 season. Amusingly, Gosselin returned to the Braves in a major league capacity this year, while Toussaint failed to make an appearance for the big-league Braves in 2022 for the first time in five seasons.
What were the expectations?
Toussaint came into the spring as part of the group of pitchers that were hopeful of landing one of the final spots in the Braves rotation. He hadn’t shown any real effectiveness at the major league level since his debut season in 2018, and pitched a career-high 50 innings with -0.2 fWAR and a good-for-him-but-not-so-much-in-general 108 xFIP- last year. Consequently, he was projected as a replacement level-type arm before the season began.
Atlanta optioned Toussaint to minor league camp in late March and he began the season at Gwinnett. He was recalled to the major league roster on April 19 as the Braves tried to shuffle in fresh arms after a series of short outings by their starters. However, his stay was a short one, as he was returned to Gwinnett two days later without appearing in a game.
Toussaint struggled to find his footing with Gwinnett this time around, struggling with a 6.26 ERA, 5.31 FIP, and 4.00 xFIP while allowing 42 hits in 41 2/3 innings. He was more effective in a smaller sample at Triple-A in 2021, as well as in 2018.
The trade to the Angels, provided Toussaint with a fresh start and he appeared in eight games down the stretch, including a pair of starts. The on-field results weren’t great following the trade (4.62 ERA, 4.81 FIP, 19 BB in 25 1/3 innings), but it was better than spinning his wheels at Gwinnett in the same situation as the last three seasons. He finished 2022 with 0.0 fWAR and a 117/119/121 line (ERA-/FIP-/xFIP-) that is basically exactly the same thing he had done in the majors prior to 2022.
What went right? What went wrong?
Toussaint didn’t throw a pitch at the major league level for the Braves in 2022 so for that reason, so there’s not much to talk about here. He did go somewhere where he’ll get more of an opportunity to contribute, so for that reason, the trade seems like a positive.
Overall, Toussaint’s issues are not unlike those faced by some other pitchers that have failed to make an impact for the Braves: his secondaries (curve and split) are quite good, but the fastball stuff is abominable. Over the years, Toussaint has experimented with trading his sinker for a four-seamer and back again, throwing both, being a curve-first guy, and so on, but none of it has really helped. His command is generally horrible and his fastballs don’t do anything, and he has, for whatever reason, never transitioned to a curve-split-only approach, mostly maintaining a multi-pitch mix for better or worse (mostly worse). When he has honed his command somewhat, it’s resulted in his fastballs being thrown down the middle (with some better location for his secondaries), but even 2022 was a great example of his persistent issues: he actually got his split to consistently land around the bottom edge to great effect, and the curveball was wicked despite going all over the place, but the sinker didn’t really sink, missed the zone too often, and was right down the pipe when it wasn’t. Woof.
Toussaint will go to Spring Training in hopes of finding a role on the Angels’ pitching staff. A full-time move to the bullpen might be the proper balm at this point. Still, he’s gotta figure out how to actually get major league hitters out with what he has, or develop something else, because we’re now nearly 3,000 pitches into his major league career and his inputs and outputs look like this: