From rotation to 'pen and back, Teodo grinding

May 8th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Kennedi Landry's Rangers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

OAKLAND -- The late innings of Cactus League action aren’t often filled with much to talk about externally, especially early in camp. The big league starters are usually long gone, replaced with prospects and fringe bench players attempting to break camp with the big league club.

But in Surprise, Ariz., this spring, there was a lot to talk about surrounding flamethrowing prospect as triple-digit radar readings flashed on the Surprise Stadium scoreboard.

Teodo -- a 23-year-old right-hander out of the Dominican Republic -- turned a lot of heads in big league camp this spring. His fastball consistently sat between 97-99 mph and touched 100 mph in Cactus League action, sparking praise from manager Bruce Bochy.

“Electric stuff,” Bochy said. “I just really liked the poise that the kid showed; he’s got great stuff.”

In his first year at Double-A Frisco, Teodo has posted a 2.91 ERA in five starts (21 2/3 innings).

Signed for just $10,000 out of the Dominican Republic during the 2019-20 international signing period, Teodo has lit up the radar gun in his time stateside, with fastballs typically sitting 95-98 mph and touching as high as 103, according to MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis.

Teodo -- a converted position player late in his amateur career and the Rangers’ No. 15 prospect per MLB Pipeline -- is still relatively new to pitching, and he has made tremendous strides over the past 18 months.

Midway through the 2023 season, Teodo worked with Jordan Tiegs (Texas' Minor League pitching coordinator) and the Rangers' pitching development staff, ultimately moving to a sinker instead of a four-seam fastball. That switch allowed Teodo to vastly improve his command and control.

“The sinker grip created a little bit more movement and played into kind of his natural arm stroke, and he was still throwing it 100, 101 mph,” Rangers assistant general manager for player development Ross Fenstermaker explained.

“It just really set him down a path for better, more consistent strikes and a lot more favorable results, which he carried into the Fall League. We shortened him down in the Fall League from a starter's workload, which he pitched all year long at [High-A] Hickory, to a reliever. The results speak for themselves. I mean, he struck out nearly 50% of the hitters in that league. It was unbelievable, and he’s really carried that into 2024.”

Early in his professional career with Texas, the development staff was unsure whether Teodo could remain as a starter long-term due to his command and control issues. That’s what led to his time as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League.

There, Teodo led the AFL with five saves and he did not allow a run over eight appearances (11 innings), scattering three hits and a trio of walks while fanning 19 and posting a ridiculous 0.55 WHIP. He ultimately earned Fall League Reliever of the Year honors.

Despite that success out of the 'pen, Teodo has become an even better starter this year.

“I think leaning into the sinker, as well as some other cues that Jon Goebel, the Double-A pitching coach, and our coordinators have given him on his breaking ball [have helped],” Fenstermaker said. “He's throwing [the sinker] more consistently right now, which is setting him up to throw more consistent strikes generating more swinging and miss, more chase -- and it's also afforded him the opportunity now to throw more changeups, too. So we're seeing more of a well-rounded mix.”

Fenstermaker continually emphasized that Teodo’s strides have made it more likely he will remain a starter, regardless of what people outside of the organization may think.

If Teodo ends up as a reliever, it will be because the big league club has an immediate need for it, not because he hasn’t shown the growth to be a starter.

“I think knowing Teodo since he was an amateur ... the pitchability aspect has been impressive and fun to watch,” Fenstermaker said. “The mentality piece, talking to him, the conversations that we have now relative to what we had years ago with him, in terms of the art of pitching is far more sophisticated.

“That speaks to the coaches that have poured into him every single day and really helped develop and cultivate him. It’s really a village effort to help him -- and to his credit, he's been receptive and open-minded and a sponge. And [he's] really grown a lot, so it's hard to put limits on players when they continue to show you they can improve year over year.”

Triple-A Round Rock: RHP
While the Rangers' No. 7 prospect anticipated making his second big league start this week, Leiter returned to Round Rock for two starts after his debut on April 18. In his first start back with the Express on April 25, he dealt six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts against the Salt Lake Bees. He followed that by allowing two runs in five innings in Albuquerque last Thursday, striking out four. Leiter has a 2.84 ERA over five appearances (four starts) at Triple-A this season.

High-A Hickory: RHP Winston Santos
Santos continues his hot start to the season and entered Wednesday among the South Atlantic League leaders in wins (tied for first with three), ERA (first with a 1.00), strikeouts (second with 38), WHIP (third with a 0.89) and opponents' batting average (fourth at .165). The right-hander has struck out at least five batters in all five starts, while surrendering only four runs (three earned) over 27 innings.

Single-A Down East: 3B Gleider Figuereo
The club’s No. 25 prospect, Figuereo entered Wednesday leading the Carolina League with six homers, while also leading the club in RBIs (15) and slugging (.468). His defense could use some work, but he’s developed at the plate over the last year to try to eliminate his chase rate and strikeout numbers.