In Touki Toussaint, the Braves truly bought a lottery ticket.
The Braves acquired pitchers Bronson Arroyo and Toussaint from Arizona on June 20, 2015. Toussaint was the 16th overall pick in the 2014 draft. The Diamondbacks wanted to clear Arroyo’s salary and the Braves absorbed it. Toussaint was the prize.
In a farm stocked with pitching, Toussaint has risen near the top. His curveball and changeup have taken steps forward as his off-speed pitches to pair with a mid-90s fastball.
Toussaint opened the season in High-A Florida, accruing a 5.04 ERA (his 3.39 FIP indicates that as a product of bad luck). He was promoted to Double-A in late July, finishing the year with a 3.18 ERA over 39-2/3 innings with Mississippi.
Toussaint was named the Braves’ High-A pitcher of the year and was honored at SunTrust Park Sept. 15. He spoke with the media before receiving his award.
Q. How much more does it mean to you to win this award in a deep farm system?
A. It means a lot. From down the line, A-ball, high-A, Triple-A, Double-A, you’ve got to complete. And I think the Braves kind of force that right off the bat in spring training. It’s not going to be given to you. You have to earn it. So it means a lot.
Q. With so many pitchers, how competitive are you guys?
A. I feel like the Braves have a family environment. So you feel like you’re competing against each other, but you’re really pushing each other. Other than that, you’re looking to each other for help. I’ll ask (Mike) Soroka ‘Hey Soroka, what do you think about this’ or ‘Hey (Patrick) Weigal, what do you think about this’ or ‘Hey (Kolby) Allard, what do you think about this?’ So it’s competitive but it’s definitely a fun environment to be able to develop in.
Q. Spending this much time with the Sorokas, the Allards; how beneficial is it to play with these guys you could be teammates with in majors?
A. It definitely matters a lot. Some guys, you get traded to another team. But the Braves have a centerpiece they want to grow together and it’s going to be fun.
Q. What are your impressions of (outfield prospect) Ronald Acuna?
A. Acuna’s an elite player, but we have a bunch of those elite players in our organization. We played together last year when we won the championship in Rome. That was fun. He’s a good kid, fun, loose, likes to have fun on the field. So that’s the kind of energy you like to be around.
Q. How has your curveball changed over the years? Still 12-6?
A. I think I have two different curveballs now. Slow one and a harder one, just from experience and playing around with it. It’s kind of the same.
Q. Has that helped you advance?
A. I think fastball command helped me get me to where I need to go and keep moving forward from here. But fastball command and everything plays off that.