Julio Teheran vs. Randall Delgado: The Battle for the Atlanta Braves No. 5 Spot

Stephen WilliamsContributor IIIMarch 31, 2012

DUNEDIN, FL - MARCH 24: Pitcher Randall Delgado #40 of the Atlanta Braves starts against the Toronto Blue Jays March 24, 2012 at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

For much of the Atlanta Braves’ run of division championships, pitching was front and center. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz were the trio that made Bobby Cox’s life a little easier.

In 2012, there’s another pitching trio in the Atlanta organization that is making waves. Braves fans are hoping Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado and Arodys Vizcaino can be just a small portion of what the soon-to-be Hall of Fame trio was.

Vizcaino’s impact will not be felt in 2012, as his season has already come to a close with Tommy John surgery during spring training. It’s a different story, though, for Teheran and Delgado, who have battled all spring for the final spot in the Atlanta rotation.

It’s been a rough spring for both. Teheran has tallied a 9.00 ERA in 13 innings, allowing opponents to hit a whopping .345 with nine home runs. Delgado’s numbers are better, but by no means stellar. Delgado has compiled a 7.89 ERA in 21.2 innings, with opponents hitting .308 against him.

According to Baseball America, Teheran is the higher rated prospect. Teheran checks in on the yearly top-100 list at No. 5. Delgado sits at number 46. Most scouts and scouting services agree that Teheran has a higher ceiling and is the better prospect. However, Delgado is the one with more starting experience in the big leagues.

When injuries struck the Braves’ starting rotation in 2011, it was Delgado, not Teheran, who was called upon to fill the hole. Delgado started seven games in 2011, going 1-1 with a 2.83 ERA.

Teheran did get his chance in 2011, but he made just three starts with a 5.03 ERA.

As Opening Day approaches, it’s decision time for Fredi Gonzalez. At this point, Delgado seems to be the logical choice to open the season in Atlanta. He may not have the highest ceiling, and Teheran may be a better pitcher in the end, but this decision needs to be made based on who can help the club win now, not later.

Whoever Gonzalez chooses for the final spot in the rotation won’t ideally be in Atlanta for very long. Tim Hudson is currently working his way back from offseason back surgery that will cause him to miss the start of the season. His return is expected around May 1, at which point Delgado or Teheran will presumably be sent back to Triple-A. It will likely be only four or five starts for whoever wins the spot, but remember that April’s games count just as much as September’s.

Regardless of who wins the final spot to start the regular season, the future is bright for the Atlanta Braves pitching staff. Does it mean a return to their glory days is on the way? Only time will tell.