The Toronto Blue Jays are in the process of establishing their future competitive core and one has to wonder if that includes Rowdy Tellez
The Toronto Blue Jays are willing to be really bad in 2019 because it means they are giving young players the chance to show they can perform at the big league level and claim their spot for the future. The club believes it can compete again (maybe sooner than their 2019 showing would lead you to believe) soon and in order to do so, they’re going to rely on guys like Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Danny Jansen and Cavan Biggio.
The question before us right now is whether the youth movement will include Rowdy Tellez.
The 24 year old lefty has had 359 plate appearances (over parts of two seasons) at the big league level, which means we have to at least base a good discussion around. It is not a full season of playing time, but again, it’s enough. In those 359 PA, Tellez has put up 18 home runs, 54 RBI, 22 doubles and a line of .246/.290/.473. His MLB walk rate sits at 5.3%, while his K% is 29%.
I’m sure most fans would be Ok with this kind of production from their first baseman. A guy who hits 20+ HR and hits near .250 is not terrible, even if his OBP is unattractive. The real issue is that when you break down his playing time, you get two different stories. The first tells a tale of a September call up that put up a wRC+ of 151. This is what got a lot of fans excited about Tellez at the big league level, even if he was doing it against other teams’ September call up pitching.
The second tale is of a guy who was given regular at bats and put up a wRC+ of 82. The power was still good (ISO of .208), but the ability to get on base was not. Sure, he faced some bad luck (.272 BABIP), but as pitchers started to expand the zone on him (as evidenced by Plate Discipline metrics), he is swinging more often and when he does, he is making less contact on pitches in the zone and he’s making more contact on pitches outside the zone, which shows him thinking outside the box in the wrong way.
Big league pitchers figured out how to pitch to Tellez because they know the power he possesses. He has shown that throughout his minor league career. The question is whether the Toronto Blue Jays believe he can take a step forward in his development to consistently perform at the big league level. If you’re curious, his defensive numbers haven’t helped his case much as he’s put up -3 DRS and 0.0 UZR/150. So, can he really improve and insert himself into the future plans, or is he a AAAA 1B/DH destined to have his 2 remaining options used up going back and forth to Buffalo while someone else takes over?
Who that someone else is remains to be seen. Since Justin Smoak was not dealt at the Trade Deadline, perhaps we can surmise that the club likes him enough to consider bringing him back for another year (with a possible option) to cover themselves. Or, could they look to bring in a free agent band-aid? There is not a plethora of talent to choose from in this year’s potential free agent class, which makes Smoak an even more desirable option. Fans shouldn’t dream on Jose Abreu, for what it’s worth.
We may want to also consider the possibility that, at some point, Vlad Jr could be moved to first base. Depending on the timeline for that, the target for filling the gap could change.
If the Blue Jays are going to compete by 2021, they need to consider what the plan is for first base. Justin Smoak can possibly hold the place until then. Barring that (and a Vlad Jr position change), Rowdy Tellez would seem to be the next logical name to consider. But, when you do, you have to wonder if he would be considered as a place holder, or an actual part of a core intent on competing.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.