Toronto Blue Jays Top Prospects #13: Rowdy Tellez

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 14: The batting gloves and bat of Jose Bautista
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 14: The batting gloves and bat of Jose Bautista /

A year ago, Rowdy Tellez was the toast of the farm system. With an exciting power tool, he looked poised to  break into the Majors in 2017, especially with concerns over Justin Smoak’s viability as an every day First Baseman.

My how times change. Just a year removed from being praised as Jays Journals #4 prospect, Rowdy Tellez has been overshadowed by some exciting talent.

Prior to the season, he looked like he may challenge for the first baseman’s job in Toronto in 2017, especially before Justin Smoak’s breakout campaign. Unfortunately for Rowdy, Smoak locked down the job for the foreseeable future, and he also had a difficult season in the minor leagues.

Name: Rowdy Tellez
Position: 1B/DH        Age: 22
Height: 6’4″    Weight: 220 lbs
Throws: Left            Bats: Left
Acquired: Drafted in the 30th round, 2013.

After tearing the ball apart in AA New Hampshire in 2016, Tellez looked ready to do the same in AAA Buffalo. Unfortunately that was not the case. Despite hitting 23 Home Runs, 71 Runs, and 81 RBI’s in 2016, he managed just 6/45/56 in 2017. The  more mature pitching outmatched him, and his solid contact with the ball dipped substantially. His average dropped from .297 to just .222 and his on-base percentage dropped from .387 to .295. Rowdy simply couldn’t figure out next level pitching. While AA arms often have 2-3 developed pitches, AAA players are generally working on 3-4. Rowdy had a hard time hitting any of it. He traded hard contact from a year before, for soft contact. Line drive base hits became soft fly outs. He saw an already high chance at striking out increase, while his ability to draw a walk decreased.

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While none of this is good to see, it isn’t necessarily bad either. It is unnatural to expect a player to rocket through a farm system without adversity, and seeing him struggle in 2017 should lead to better production, and better growth in 2018. Rowdy still profiles as being an above average offensive player, but clearly needs to work on his swing some more in the minors. Last year he seemed poised to fill in for Justin Smoak should the chance arrive, and many fans, myself included, could not wait to see that happen. Fortunately none of that happened as Smoak became the batter he was always projected to be, and Rowdy was allowed to stay and learn in the farm system.

For now, the farm system is stocked with talent, Smoak is locked in at first, and a year has done a lot to change the outlook of the minor league system. With the pressure off to make the major league team, one can be hopeful that Tellez and staff can work out the problems in his swing. Tellez will need to find that hard contact he had in New Hampshire, and could also stand to increase his plate discipline in hopes of reversing his escalating K rate and declining BB rate. Rowdy’s ceiling is what he makes of it. At best he could be a bombastic First Base/DH player, or at worst a plus bat off the bench. Fortunately for us, he a has time to figure that out.

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