Heading into the 2020 season, the Toronto Blue Jays may be going with Rowdy Tellez at first base, which is OK…for now
The Toronto Blue Jays seem to feel they have established a core upon which they can build. They’ve hinted at adding payroll, which means that fans can dream, at least a little, about what players could be added this offseason. While we know they need pitching (and lots of it), they also have other needs. One of those is first base. Justin Smoak will be a free agent and, given how much playing time he got as 2019 drew to a close, it looks as though Rowdy Tellez may be leaned upon for everyday reps at first base.
This isn’t ideal. When it comes to their long term solution at first, he isn’t Mr Right, but considering where the club is right now, he is Mr Right Now.
There is no question that Rowdy Tellez has impressed many a fan with his power stroke. From his first taste of big league pitching, he showed some very tantalizing home run ability. 2019 gave him more playing time and in 111 games, he hit 21 homers, drove in 54 and put up an ISO of .222. He hit nearly 38% of balls in the air and had a HR/FB rate of 21.6%.
On the defensive side of things, Tellez played more than respectably at first. He was worth -1 DRS and a UZR/150 of 5.1. For comparison, Smoak, who is an underrated defender, put up -3 DRS and a UZR/150 of -3.2. If the Blue Jays ride the Tellez train in 2020, they can feel confident that run prevention will not be an issue with the 24 year old.
But, here’s the thing: Rowdy Tellez cannot be the first baseman the Blue Jays rely on when they’re ready to actually compete in the AL East. In 2019, The Rowdy One produced the 4th worst batting average (.227), 2nd worst OBP (.293), 4th worst OPS (.742) and had the WORST Runs Created (RC) mark among all MLB first baseman with a minimum of 400 plate appearances at 47.4. Sure, he has 25 dinger potential, but everything else he produces at the plate leaves a lot to be desired.
When Toronto feels it is ready to challenge in the toughest division in baseball or, heck, even for a Wild Card spot, they’re going to have to do something about the offensive production at first base. It is doubtful that 2020 is the season they will do that. Considering who is available on the open market, it would make sense for them to see if Tellez can make adjustments to his offensive game. Barring the club bringing Smoak back, which wouldn’t be terrible, this seems to be what the club will do. They feel that Rowdy Tellez is their Mr Right Now.
Moving forward, though, one has to think that there will be a change for 2021 and beyond. Likely, that change will be the moving of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. from third base. If the Blue Jays cannot find a suitable replacement in July or the following offseason, then that movement could happen sooner than we might think.
Regardless of who the long term solution is for first base, you can bet that it is not Rowdy Tellez. The Blue Jays are not set to truly compete in 2020, so he is fine for this coming season. He’s their Mr Right Now, but he cannot be seen as their Mr Right- a long term solution. This is hard to say, but, essentially, he’s keepng a seat warm for an undetermined long term solution.
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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.