It sounds like Justin Smoak is going to be sitting a little more in favour of Rowdy Tellez at first base, giving a latter a chance to prove his value on defence.
The keys have been turned over to the next generation of the Blue Jays, and while that movement has almost gone to the extreme, so far it’s worked out really well for the young squad.
After Freddy Galvis was put on waivers and allowed to leave for Cincinnati in order to permanently open up shortstop for Bo Bichette, Justin Smoak is one of the only established veterans left in the lineup. It’s a bit of a surprise that the Blue Jays weren’t able to find a contender that could use him before the trade deadline, but it shouldn’t be a surprise what they have planned for the 32 year old veteran for the rest of the season.
He’s been getting regular at-bats throughout the season, but that may not be the case for the last 40 or so games of the 2019 campaign, especially now that Rowdy Tellez has been recalled. Tellez wasn’t brought back to the big leagues to sit on the bench, and the need to get him into the lineup will likely come at Smoak’s expense.
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According to TSN’s Scott Mitchell, Blue Jay manager Charlie Montoyo plans to make sure that everyone gets playing time through the remainder of the season, but someone is going to have to sit, and choosing the only guy north of 30 and one who is on an expiring contract makes sense. That’s especially the case when the Blue Jays really do need to see what they have in Tellez, who has shown major signs of promise at times, and has mightily struggled at others.
He was making a mockery of Triple-A pitching through 109 at-bats with the Buffalo Bisons, sporting an on-base percentage of .450, and adding seven home runs. He’s proven that he’s too good of a hitter for that level, but he’s yet to establish himself in the big leagues the same way his young teammates have in recent months. He left the Blue Jays with a slash line of .227/.280/.436 with 14 home runs in 286 plate appearances, and the front office wants to see if he can translate that recent Triple-A dominance to the highest level.
My guess is they’ll also want to see if Tellez can provide an adequate enough glove at first base to move forward with him there in 2020 and beyond. Brandon Drury has also been getting more starts there lately and hitting well, and the two of them could potentially work as a platoon for next season if things go well. However, that will require Tellez to perform better than he was before his demotion, and the Blue Jays don’t have a lot more time to evaluate whether he’s ready for the job next season.
Now that Galvis has been claimed by the Cincinnati Reds, it gives the Blue Jays a little more flexibility with the designated hitter spot as well, where they have been rotating infielders recently. That could allow for Smoak and Tellez to both at least see semi-regular playing time, and hopefully allow the Blue Jays to evaluate their young option while also paying proper respect to a valued veteran.
That will be Montoyo’s challenge as the season winds down, among others. After the way the Blue Jays have turned over their roster throughout the last year, I’m sure Smoak won’t be surprised if he sits a little more down the stretch. Hopefully Tellez can take advantage of the opportunity.