On Sunday, the Blue Jays designated first base prospect Rowdy Tellez to minor league camp. Tellez left a positive impression on the coaching staff with a strong Grapefruit League showing.
Despite all the talk about the Blue Jays’ first base picture this year, the options are plentiful for manager, John Gibbons. With Justin Smoak returning and free agent addition Steve Pearce in the fold, it’s possible they form some sort of job share. Jose Bautista looks poised for a strong season in the outfield, but he’s also capable of manning first base if the need arises.
For those reasons and likely a few more, the Blue Jays decided to send Rowdy Tellez to minor league camp on Sunday, ending the speculation that he might sneak his way on to the Opening Day roster. Tellez has impressed the coaching staff and fellow players with his strong play this spring, looking as though he’s not far from taking the next step in his career.
John Gibbons has praised him several times in March and has quickly become one of Tellez’s biggest believers. A few weeks back, he told Sportnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith where he saw Tellez’s development compared to his minor league teammates.
"“He’s probably the closest guy knocking on the big-league door.”"
There are plenty of reasons for folks within the organization to believe Gibby’s statement to be true. The 22 year old has steadily improved throughout his MiLB career, and finished 2016 with a slash line of .297/.387/,530 in 124 games at AA New Hampshire, also adding 23 home runs, 29 doubles and 81 RBI.
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The southpaw both hits and throws left-handed, and started off Grapefruit League play with a bang, picking up a couple early doubles and looking poised at the plate against pitchers with far more experience. He struggled a bit later on, but left a very positive impression overall. He finished 8-30, for a .267/.371/.333 mark, good enough to hang around until nearly two weeks before the MLB season begins. On the plus side, he walked 4 times as well, and on the down side, he struck out 11 times.
Here at Jays Journal, we’ve examined Rowdy a few times, placing him #4 in our top prospects ranking in February. Tellez also cracked Baseball America’s Top 100 rankings this year, slipping in under the radar at #95. As a first baseman it’s difficult to earn as much attention as young pitchers or potential 5-tool types, but that doesn’t mean Tellez has gone unnoticed. For example, Keith Law has Tellez ranked as the Blue Jays’ #9 prospect, behind the likes of Richard Urena (#6), Justin Maese (#8) and more, despite his being far closer to major league ready.
In the eyes of many Blue Jays fans, the time is now to the California native to jump to the show, replacing the incumbent, Smoak. While the suggestion is understandable, the strikeout numbers reveal that Tellez could use more seasoning in the minors before his time to shine is upon us. It’s a small sample size, but it’s obviously something to monitor when you’re striking out 1 out of every 3 at bats. Our own Lucas Silva took a close look at Tellez’s swing last month, in a thorough article that’s definitely worth a read as well.
*I agree @brucegodin, I’ve been thinking the same since he was drafted.
For now, there’s nothing wrong with the his being sent to minor league camp, as it’s likely best for his long term development and the immediate future of the club. There’s little doubting it’ll be “Rowdy time” in Toronto at some point, and if Smoak or another solution doesn’t perform in the first half, that point could come sooner than later.