Blue Jays: Could Rowdy Tellez become an elite power hitter?

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 01: Rowdy Tellez #44 of the Toronto Blue Jays laughs during batting practice before the game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 1, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 01: Rowdy Tellez #44 of the Toronto Blue Jays laughs during batting practice before the game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 1, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

After a below league average season offensively from Rowdy Tellez in 2019, could there be some positive signs in his batted profile?

After an incredible debut with the Blue Jays in 2018, which included nine doubles and four home runs in just 23 games, Rowdy Tellez came back to earth in 2019. A season in which he slashed .227/.293/.449 with more than a strikeout per game. This amounted to a .308 wOBA (weighted on base average), which was nearly 4% below the league average wOBA of .320.

Tellez is roughly an average defender at first base per UZR, DRS, or OAA. But, as a first baseman/designated hitter type, we want Tellez to be an everyday threat in the lineup. The question is, can Tellez become the bat we need him to be?

Today, I would like to take a dive into Tellez’s batted ball profile to see if there is any hope for our big bopper in the middle of our lineup. Statcast has grouped all batted balls into six different buckets by a combination of exit velocity and launch angle. The six buckets are weak contact, topped ball, under ball, flare/burner, solid contact, and barrel. A barrelled ball is obviously the best form of contact on a batted ball.

"“To be Barrelled, a batted ball requires an exit velocity of at least 98 mph. At that speed, balls struck with a launch angle between 26-30 degrees always garner Barrelled classification. For every mph over 98, the range of launch angles expands.” from"

The ability to barrel a ball is a legitimate skill and correlates well from year to year. Barrel percentage is true predictor of power ability. In 2019, Rowdy Tellez, had a Barrel percentage of 13.2%. That means he barrelled up 13.2% of all batted balls that he put in play. Tellez was in the top 9% of batters in barrel percentage. This was ahead of known power hitters like Cody Bellinger, Josh Bell, and Marcel Ozuna.

Let’s look at Barrels per plate appearance (before was per batted ball). Tellez has a 8.3 Brls/PA percentage. This is in the top 30 among qualified hitters. Eno Sarris, from The Athletic, in a recent article concluded that Tellez was among the least lucky batters in terms of power in 2019. He converted Brls/PA into a ‘100’ number (where 100 would be league average) and called it BRL+ and compared it to ISO+. Tellez had a BRL+ of 180 and an ISO+ of 119 for a difference of 61 points. This was the 10th largest difference among qualified hitters. It is reasonable to conclude we could see a power surge in 2020 if Tellez receives enough playing time.

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This all sounds fine and dandy, but there is obviously a downside to Tellez’s batted ball profile that has held him back. There are two things that I have noticed that he really needs to improve on to become the slugger that we want him to be. They are K% (strike out percentage) and BB% (walk percentage). Tellez has had a 28.4 K% and a 6.4% BB% in his time in the majors. Both are significantly worse that league average over that time. Strikeouts are almost inherent for sluggers these days. Aaron Judge has had a 31.6 K% over his career. But Tellez is not Judge at this point and getting a little closer to a league average strike out rate (approx 22%) could help Tellez a lot.

The need for a BB% improvement is far more important than a K% improvement though. He is roughly 23% below league average at taking walks. The best power hitters know how to take walks, and as we know from Moneyball, taking a walk will equate to more runs for the team.  He is not too far off the mark with either his strikeout rate or his walk rate, and I think with some slight tweaks to his approach, he can be a feared member of the 2020 Blue Jays lineup.

Rowdy is slightly below league average with contact rates, but that is relatively normal for someone with his batted ball profile and size. But when he makes contact, he more than makes up for his misses. Tellez had a wOBAcon (wOBA on contact) of .397. League average wOBAcon was .378. Meaning, when Tellez is well above league average when putting the ball in play. You could argue that he should’ve done more damage when making contact as well. He had an expected wOBA on contact of .434 based on quality of contact.

dark. Next. Jose Bautista working on his pitching chops?

The Blue Jays have all kinds of young talent in their line up with Guerrero, Bichette, Biggio, Gurriel, and Jansen but they could always use more. Tellez lead the team last year in barrel% and barrels per plate appearance. Per a Keegan Matheson article the other day, Tellez has lost 15 lbs of fat and added 14 lbs of muscle. It takes a lot of effort to lose fat but not weight. He is clearly putting in the work to become a better ball player. I believe that Tellez is not far off from reaching his potential and could easily hit 30 to 40 home runs in the near future. His emergence could lengthen the Blue Jays line up and help the team reach their desired goals.