Rowdy Tellez has yet to see at-bats past Double-A, and should see some Triple-A pitching before playing in the majors with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Rowdy Tellez has the potential to be the next big left-handed bat for the Toronto Blue Jays. He has been very solid in Spring Training thus far, collecting seven hits in 25 at-bats, including three walks. He has not hit a home run this spring, but his minor league numbers show he obviously has pop in his bat.
Many Jays fans have been hoping he wins the opening day first base job over the struggling Justin Smoak. Though Smoak may not be the answer at the position, I believe that it is not quite time to fast-track the 21-year-old (22 on Thursday) to the majors just yet.
The 6-foot-4, 220 pound lefty has been able to hit everywhere he has played so far in the minor leagues. However, his journey so far has stopped at Double-A New Hampshire. Tellez has not seen a Triple-A at bat yet in his career.
There’s no question his raw numbers with the Fisher Cats last year were very good. His slash line of .297/.387/.530 is excellent.
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Tellez hit lefties okay, but his damage vs RHP would be where he would be most useful on the Jays. He finished with a .963 OPS vs that side of the mound in AA.
However, there are some advanced numbers that show Tellez could use a little bit more time in the minors before making the leap to the majors. The one big stat I do like is his BB percentage was up over 12 percent in 2016, which is nice to see for a power hitting first baseman. His batting eye has been very good in the minors.
Something that needs to change though before he reaches the majors is his fly ball and ground ball percentages. For a power hitting player, Tellez put the ball on the ground over 40 percent of the time.
For a player who isn’t running balls out, that isn’t a great stat. It has worked for him up to AA, but his BABIP is relatively high at .324 in 2016 and that could be due to the level of play. As he makes his way to the majors, that ground ball rate is going to lead to more outs than hits with the improved defence and his lack of speed.
When Tellez puts the ball in the air, he has success with a HR/FB percentage hovering around 20 percent. The problem is he hits fly balls about 30 pecent of the time. You want to see that number higher and the ground ball rate lower.
If he can start hitting fly balls at a higher rate, then he can truly be a force in the middle of a major league lineup. We just have to see it more before he’s ready to play for the Jays. His first taste of Triple-A this year should show where he has improved in that aspect.
Look, I get that Smoak may not be the guy many Jays fans want to start at first base. He has struggled and we may have seen all that he can give us.
However, shooting Tellez right away to the majors could do more to hurt him than help him. He has some things that need to be dealt with in the AAA before he is ready to make a real impact on the major league roster.
Is Smoak currently better than Tellez? Maybe not, but I think it’s much more likely and smarter to wait until 2018 for his first opening day start.
Tellez should definitely start this year in AAA, and if he hits well enough he could be up in Toronto by the end of the season. But let’s pump the breaks a little bit, and let the man rake in Buffalo before he sees major league pitching consistently for the first time.