Continuing my countdown of the Atlanta Braves top prospects, today we take a look at Touki Toussaint. Previous scouting reports (since I arrived at Outfield Fly Rule):
Touki Toussaint, RHP
2016 Level: A Rome
27 G, 24 GS
Dany Gilbert Kiti “Touki” Toussaint was a 1st-round pick (16th overall) by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014. Toussaint was part of an unusual trade in 2015 when the Diamondbacks sent Toussaint and veteran pitcher Bronson Arroyo to Atlanta for utility infielder Phil Gosselin. Arroyo was injured and not expected to play at all in 2015, so essentially the trade was the equivalent of the Braves paying Arizona the $10.1 million remaining on Arroyo’s contract for the rights to Toussaint.
Arizona may have become wary of Toussaint after a terrible rookie season (8.58 ERA over two rookie leagues) with ugly peripherals on the side. The start of his 2015 season in class-A Kane County went better, but his peripheral stats still looked bad, as did the max-effort delivery that Toussaint had a difficult time replicating, causing periodic bouts of wildness. After seven starts, Arizona pulled the plug and Toussaint became the Braves’ puzzle to solve. At the time however, the Braves received high praise from national baseball pundits for the trade.
Toussaint went to work in Rome after the trade, and the surface results were worse. Toussaint admitted that he was pressing to impress his new organization, but he was also working on refining his delivery. Toussaint was assigned back to Rome for 2016, and slowly the refinements started bearing fruit. From the start of the season through the end of June, Toussaint was walking 4.88 batters per 9 innings. While limiting batter contact (.218 batting average against), the walk rate plus bad timing with home runs resulted in a 4.63 ERA over that time. In the second half, Toussaint was able to bring all three of his pitches into games more often, and his strikeout numbers spiked up. He still minimized batter contact; the walk numbers remained high, but he started limiting the damage. Toussaint was at his best down the stretch, with a 2.34 ERA in August and September, saving his best start of the season for the South Atlantic League championship series: 8 innings of 4 hit, 1 run, 6 strikeout ball in which he didn’t walk a single batter. Baseball America named Toussaint the #15 prospect in the South Atlantic League after the season.
Toussaint is listed as 6’-3” and 185 pounds, but looks to have filled out a bit. What impressed scouts before his draft was his raw stuff. Toussaint brings to the table a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and touches 97. He backs that up with a monster 12-6 curveball. Toussaint relied heavily on the curveball to generate strikeouts early on, because while fast, his fastball was very straight. The Diamondbacks forbade Toussaint to throw the curveball in order to work in the change-up. While that didn’t help his stats much, it did help him start to get a feel for the pitch to the point that it’s now a quality third pitch. The Braves worked with Toussaint to tame his delivery, which was over the top and threw his balance wildly off the left of the mound. Toussaint has lowered his arm slot to 3-quarters, which has helped tame his follow-through to make it more repeatable. It’s also had the benefit of giving his fastball more movement, which is what accounted for his strikeout increase in the second half. It’s not a given every night, but when everything is in sync, Toussaint is one of the most formidable pitchers in the minor leagues.
The next step for Touki is likely class A+ Florida and further work on making his delivery as consistent as possible. One thing that is always consistent is Toussaint‘s willingness to work and take coaching. He gets high grades for attitude and comportment, and is a popular player in the clubhouse and with fans.