ROME, GA — The Rome Braves are stacked in the pitching department. Some have been acquired through the drafts, like 2015’s haul of Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka and Patrick Weigel. Others — like Max Fried and Touki Toussaint — were brought to Atlanta via trade. After a slow start to his Braves career, Toussaint is now finding his way for the Rome Braves.
Toussaint was selected 16th overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft. His half-season debut across two levels of Rookie ball showed what everyone knew: Toussaint was armed with nasty stuff, but he needed to refine his mechanics to harness his command. He finished 2014 with an 8.48 ERA and an impressive 32 strikeouts in 28.2 innings. He also walked 18 batters over the same span, and was very hittable as opponents hit .311 against the young righty, albeit behind a very unlucky BABIP touching the .370s.
Halfway through Toussaint’s second season, one that showed an improvement in walk rate but a decline in his strikeout percentage, the Diamondbacks decided to make a change. On June 20, 2015, Toussaint’s 19th birthday, they sent him (and Bronson Arroyo’s contract) to Atlanta for Phil Gosselin.
“At first I was surprised, like what’s going on here,” Toussaint said of the day he was traded. “But then you kind of step back and realize that it’s business. You get traded, and dealt off and tomorrow morning you can be playing for another team. You never know. I came here and they welcomed me like a family. I really enjoy myself here.”
Toussaint arrived in Rome and made ten starts. He was not himself however, as he was clearly pressing and overthrowing.
“Yeah, you get that edge,” Toussaint said of his rocky Rome Braves debut. “You kind of want to show what you can do to your teammates. This year I just relaxed. The coordinators and everybody told me, ‘Hey, just relax, we know what you can do, just go out there and pitch.’”
This season, Toussaint started off slowly once again in Rome, but had a very nice June and July. He posted a 2.17 ERA in June and a 3.46 ERA in July. He was a bit more hittable in July than he was in June, but the 6-foot-3, 185 pound righty struck out 64 and walked 26 over those 55 innings. His fastball was blowing opponents away and his curveball was freezing batters at the plate. Toussaint was finally showing that his pitching could match his stuff, that he could in fact become a pitcher and not a thrower.
“I give my pitching coach Dan Meyer and Chuck Hernandez — our pitching coordinator — all the credit because they were seeing stuff I couldn’t see or feel,” Toussaint said of his big June and July turnaround. “They sat me down and said, ‘I think this is going to turn you around,’ and ever since then I’ve been working on what they said and improve every outing.”
This past Sunday, Toussaint took the hill against the Columbia Fireflies. He threw five solid innings of one-hit baseball before letting the game get away from him a bit. He came out of the gates hot, showing off his devastating curve — one named the best breaking ball in Low-A by Baseball America on August 5 — on the very first batter.
For more on his arsenal and Sunday’s performance, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for the full interview by clicking on the link below: