Blue Jays: The Tellez/Guerrero Jr. platoon should continue next season
A power-hitting platoon blossomed last season between Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Rowdy Tellez, with a hint of what could be a powerful tandem that should be kept intact next season for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Most Blue Jays fans knew that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would be making the trip across the diamond at some point in his career, but many were a bit surprised to see the switch happen so soon. With Guerrero Jr. moving to first base this season, a power-hitting platoon between Junior and Rowdy Tellez put the Toronto Blue Jays in a good position when both bats were in the lineup.
Guerrero Jr. had a bit of an up and down 2020 campaign, struggling out of the gate and finding a groove more towards the end of the season. The launch angle was another hot topic this year, as Junior kept hitting for power, but not putting the ball over the fence as much as fans were hoping for. Guerrero would end up finishing the shortened campaign with a .262/.329/.462 slash line, a hare down from his season totals from 2019.
Coming into the 2020 season, it was questionable as to whether Rowdy Tellez would even make the roster given the Guerrero Jr. position switch and the signing of first baseman/third baseman Travis Shaw. Tellez would eventually make the roster out of summer camp and would go on to have an impressive campaign, slashing .283/.346/.540 with eight home runs, 23 RBI, and just 20 strikeouts in 113 at-bats. His season would be cut short when he injured his knee on September 7th and would finish the season on the injured list.
Why should this tandem be kept together next season you ask?
To put it bluntly, both Tellez and Guerrero Jr. possess a tremendous amount of power when they step in at the plate, and to keep one of them out of the lineup would be just plain silly. They both hit the ball hard and having both players in the lineup gives the Blue Jays a chance to put some runs on the board every time they step in the batter’s box, whether it be an extra-base hit, line drive, or a home run. They combined for 17 of the Blue Jays 88 home runs last season as well as 56 RBI out of the teams 288 total (19% and 19% respectively), as well as 31 walks compared to the team total of 203 (15%).
Split wise, Tellez was comfortable against both right and left-handed pitchers, forming a .267/.340/.570 and .333/.367/.444 slash line respectively. He did play fewer games against LHP (27 at-bats) compared to RHP (86 at-bats) but he still put up some solid numbers when playing against the same hand. Guerrero Jr. was a bit different split wise, hitting well off of RHP (.276/.333/.423 in 163 at-bats) and struggling to put the ball in play against LHP’s (.224/.318/.569 in 58 at-bats), although he did hit more home runs against the southpaws in fewer at-bats. Tellez and Junior would form this tandem 27 times last season before Tellez went down with the injury, with the Toronto Blue Jays forming a 24-18 record by September 7.
It’s no guarantee that this platoon will form again next season, but I would be pretty shocked to see the Blue Jays moving away from this technique barring a trade or injury.
One scenario that could derail the plan is if Travis Shaw is brought back for the 2021 season, as he does have experience at first base and is currently waiting to see if the Toronto Blue Jays will hang on to him, as he is in his last year of arbitration. Even if he is brought back, the Guerrero Jr/Tellez tandem could still be kept intact as Shaw could be kept at third base, a position he played 37 times for the Blue Jays last season, the most of any player on the team. Shaw had a bit of a down year and the argument could go either way to bringing him back or letting him walk after putting up a .239/.306/.411 slash line with six home runs and 17 RBI in 163 at-bats. Wait and see I guess.
Another scenario that could see this plan fall off the tracks is if Teoscar Hernandez becomes more of a designated hitter this upcoming season.
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The right-handed Dominican Republic native had an absolute monster season, crushing the ball on his way to earning a Hank Aaron Award nomination. Hernandez did see some improvements this season in the outfield, with his Defensive Runs Saved improving to a -1, a +8 jump from 2018, and a +13 jump from 2018. While I cannot see the Blue Jays really going and putting Hernandez as a strict DH given his age at 28 years old, an outside player brought into the equation could see the organization make some moves to get the best bats into the lineup.
Lastly, this scenario only goes well if both players are playing well day in and day out. Guerrero Jr. was struggling a bit defensively at first base, which was expected given he just made the position switch this year. Tellez did have some struggles in 2019 but had a comeback year of sorts in 2020, which showed more of what we saw from him in 2018, helping earn a shot at making the roster next season.
Ultimately, I just don’t see the Blue Jays keeping two young power bats out of the lineup, given that both players could be utilized almost every game. The two could switch to play first base or designated hitter depending on stamina/rest and to help play against the split, putting the ‘weaker’ of the two as DH and pinch-hitting him later in the game if needed. Both players have the ability to put the ball in play and I believe having one of them on the bench hurts the Blue Jays’ chances of putting more runs on the board, especially since a platoon scenario arises where both players could be used day in and day out.
The roster is already full of talented hitters like Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Hernandez, so to have two more power hitters potentially mixed in seems like a positive rather than a negative. If Tellez can put up similar numbers next season and Guerrero Jr. can keep hitting the ball hard and off the ground, the Blue Jays might have a very impressive platoon that could wreak havoc in AL East for several years.