- Written by Skye Paul (@BravesFromLA on Twitter)
Touki Toussaint throws back to back masterpieces in first two starts of 2021
Although the Braves fell to the Phillies by a heart-breaking 2-1 score, Braves fans were left with something to smile about today. Touki Toussaint pitched a brilliant seven innings, only allowing one run while striking out a career high ten batters, and most importantly, did not issue a single walk.
Recently coming off the 60-day IL (shoulder soreness), this kind of production from Toussaint seemed to come out of nowhere to most fans, including myself. However, what Touki has showed in his first two starts and rehab assignments this year, there is reason to believe that Toussaint has "figured it out" at the big league level. If that's the case, the sky is the limit for him. Let's take a look at what makes Toussaint effective:
Going back to Touki's days as a prospect, MLB Pipeline ranked him as the braves 4rh best prospect and placed 40th in their top 100 prospects in 2018. Scouts noted Touki's electric fastball and above average off speed, but warned that his lack of control could come back to bit him in the big leagues.
Fangraphs Prospect Report (2018) on 20-80 scale:
Future Value 50
Following Touki's prospect hype, it is safe to say he did not live up to expectation in 2018, 2019, and 2020. The control was a glaring issue for Toussaint, posting a BB/9 above 5.5 in the big leagues in all three seasons. The strikeout rate was there, posting a combined 10.14 K/9, yet was not inducing ground balls (43.7% GB%), most likely because his lackluster command inhibited him from controlling launch angle.
Toussaint had "prospect bust" written all over him, most Braves fans gave up on him following more blown opportunities in 2020 for him, where he posted an 8.88 ERA across seven starts. Like teammate Kyle Wright, Touki couldn't throw strikes consistently, allowing hitters to wait him out until he made a mistake pitch. Baseball sees these kinds of young pitchers all of the time, guys that can't seem to reach their potential and fall to the wayside when new prospects come up.
Coming into this year, Toussaint was placed on the 60-day IL with shoulder inflammation and was completely forgotten about. The Braves media staff did not provide any updates on his health, and fans were focused on other promising pitching prospects such as Kyle Muller, Tucker Davidson, and Huascar Ynoa. Yet, Touki Toussaint had other plans in mind. In his last two rehab starts at AAA Gwinnett, Touki posted a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings, striking out 18 batters and walking only four batters, earning him the call-up to the big leagues.
On July 20th, Touki earned a start against the San Diego Padres in place of Ian Anderson, who was placed on the 10-day IL with shoulder inflammation. Toussaint tossed 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run, striking out five, and surrendering only two walks, earning him another start on July 25th against the Phillies (today). Not only did he back-up his previous performance, he topped it, throwing a career high seven innings, striking out a career high 10 batters and allowing ZERO walks. His only blemish was a Jean Segura solo homer in the 4th. Touki pitched by far the best outing of his career, catching league-wide attention and finding multiple features on Pitching Ninja. It was a masterpiece, really.
I highly doubt Touki continues this kind of performance going forward, but if he can continue to throw strikes consistently, I believe he will become a big part of the Braves pitching staff for years to come. He has the raw ability in his velocity and movement to be an elite pitcher in the big leagues, it's all about Touki staying confident in himself and willing to attack hitters. I'm excited to see what he can bring to the table in the coming weeks!