SURPRISE, Ariz. – Just as Texas was getting underway in Game 3 of the World Series at Chase Field on Monday night, about 25 miles away, Emiliano Teodo was finishing up his afternoon in the Arizona Fall League and giving a glimpse into what he could bring to the Rangers in the future.
Texas' No. 22 prospect tossed two more scoreless innings for his fourth save in what has been a very successful Fall League campaign during the Surprise Saguaros’ 5-3 victory over the Scottsdale Scorpions. No one would fault the 22-year old from letting his mind wander to getting outs on the biggest stage the sport has down the road, but Teodo appears as grounded as they come.
“It’s not easy for me to feel that way because I’m just trying to do the best I can where my feet are,” Teodo said through translator/Surprise manager Carlos Cardoza, who is also with the Rangers. “Every time I take the mound, that is as if it were my World Series game. I’m out here competing with my teammates and the one thing I do think about is no one I’m facing, whatever level is better than me. I’m going out there, I’m competing and I’m helping my team win.”
He's done that and then some out of the Saguaros bullpen this fall. Armed with perhaps the most electric stuff in the Fall League, Teodo has made seven appearances without allowing a run. He’s yielded just three hits over 10 innings, and with Monday's two strikeouts, he's racked up 18 K’s. He’s been so dominant that the latest pair of punchouts in two frames actually lowered his K/9 rate to 16.2.
But perhaps the biggest difference this fall compared with where his stuff was when he signed with the Rangers for just $10,000 in January 2020 has been in the walks department. Teodo has a career walk rate of 4.9 per nine, 4.8/9 with High-A Hickory in 2023. In the AFL? He’s given up just two free passes over his 10 innings.
“During the season, I had trouble with my fastball command,” Teodo said. “I was coming in and was more worried about stuff and throwing hard. Now I’m worried about pitching.
“I used to come and want to break the radar gun. I’d want to hit 105 [mph]. Now I’m just focusing on making my pitches. Someone told me, take the mound every game like you’re in the big leagues, make your pitches and go from there.”
Lest one think Teodo has become a soft tosser, he’s still throwing plenty hard enough. He hit triple digits 10 times on Monday, six of them in his second inning of work. His second strikeout came with runners on second and third and one out in the eighth, bringing back-to-back fastballs over 100 mph to get the Cardinals’ Jimmy Crooks swinging. He coupled that with a nasty mid-80s slider that was routinely right around an elite-level 3,000 rpm. He still cares about how hard he’s throwing, but instead of what he maxes out at being the most important thing, he uses the radar readings on the scoreboard as more of a calibration device.
“Sometimes, I’ll check the board and the miles per hour just to make sure that I’m doing what I need to do,” Teodo said. “If I’m dropping below triple digits, I know I have to make an adjustment in my body and making sure I’m lining up my body with what I know I can do with my arm.”
The scary thing is that this is really Teodo’s first time pitching out of a bullpen against top competition. He did it during his pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League in 2021 to ease him into pro ball, but he’s been developed as a starter the past two years. The Rangers’ powers-that-be will undoubtedly have serious discussions about what Teodo’s future role should be. The version of him on the mound on Monday, and during all of the Fall League, looks a lot like a guy who could pitch in high-leverage big league situations in the very near future. But it’s also difficult to develop starters with this kind of stuff, and at least right now, that’s where the right-hander feels most comfortable.
“I like the starter role because it’s a set routine and you have a set time for preparation and you know what to expect,” Teodo said. “As a reliever, I’m still learning how to get up, how to get hot, how to come in. Your number can be called at any moment in the game. That’s been a bit of a challenge for me.”