Braves Prospect Profile: Touki Toussaint
The Atlanta Braves’ pitching prospects are routinely the center of attention when it comes time to talk about what’s down on the farm. There always seems to be another blue chipper on the horizon. Or in Atlanta’s case, several of those premium arms waiting in the wings.
Meet Touiki Toussaint. He’s the “Next Big Thing” right now.
Toussaint, 22, made his Triple-A debut for the Gwinnett Stripers on Thursday night at Coolray Field and it’s safe to say he lived up to the recent billing.
The hard-throwing righty did all the things that made him successful over 16 starts with Mississippi. He fought through a shaky first inning, established his fastball and then used it to set up both his curveball and changeup to great effect.
“I felt good,” said Toussaint. “Didn’t have my best fastball command early, but I tried to settle in and give the team the best chance to win. After the first inning, I felt all the adrenaline wash away. Honestly, after I got through that first I was like, ‘I’m good; let’s go to work.’”
And go to work he did.
Toussaint fired 6-2/3 innings of one-run ball. He allowed just five hits, walked three and struck out five to earn the victory in his first start with Gwinnett.
The pitch that has put Toussaint on a different path this year has been his changeup. Like most Braves farmhands, developing that off-speed offering is one of the main points of emphasis in the minor league system. His ability to refine that pitch helps his mid-90s fastball play up and makes his curveball that much more effective.
“I have been working on it and I keep developing it, and see where it’s taking me,” Toussaint said of his changeup.
Where it’s already taken him this season is on a joyride through the Southern League, where he topped the circuit with 107 strikeouts in 86 innings for Double-A Mississippi.
Over his final five starts there, Toussaint posted a 1.17 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 30-2/3 innings of work. He fanned a season-high 11 batters in his final Double-A outing, punching his ticket to the International League.
When it comes to a general scouting report, suffice it to say Toussaint has electric stuff. His fastball was 92-94 mph throughout most of the night on Thursday and touched 97 mph. The curveball was thrown less frequently thanks to how effective his changeup was. It was clear that Toussaint is confident in throwing his change in any count. Additionally, throwing the curve less may actually make it more devastating from a sequencing standpoint.
This is a pitcher who did not take the mound regularly until the age of 16. Toussaint is an outstanding athlete who grew up playing soccer in Haiti and was considered a raw prospect when he was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the 16th pick in the 2014 draft. Atlanta took on the contract of an injured Bronson Arroyo in order to broker the 2015 trade that brought Toussaint to the system.
It appears to be one of the most astute moves of the Braves rebuild.
Since adjusting his motion and dropping his release point in 2016, Toussaint has enjoyed success at three levels with those improved mechanics over the past three seasons. Turning himself into a true three-pitch starter has unlocked his potential this year.
Despite putting together a career-best season so far, Toussaint has done an excellent job of maintaining his focus start to start, rather than getting wrapped up in the numbers.
“My year’s been alright,” he said. “Just trying to stay consistent as possible and keep on going.”
Atlanta has toyed with the concept of asking some of their talented young starters to help out in an area of need this season. Of course, that need would be in the bullpen. That’s a place that Toussaint may be uniquely qualified to lend a hand, or an arm in this case.
While most starting pitching prospects typically stick to that role as they crack the big leagues, it was not an uncommon practice across baseball not that long ago to see some of those highly touted arms break in as relievers. In recent years, Chris Sale and David Price both took that route before moving back into rotation and enjoying extended success.
Toussaint certainly has the stuff and the arsenal to make an impact out of the bullpen. Depending on how Atlanta’s pursuit of trade targets goes in the coming weeks, the team could call on Toussaint sooner than later.