Rowdy Tellez: A Future Jay and the Chip on His Shoulder

Two years ago, I wrote that the Blue Jays may have hit it big when they took Rowdy Tellez in the 30th round of the 2013 draft. So far, that suggestion looks solid. The 21-year-old first-base prospect logged an .801 OPS in A-ball last season, and this year he’s slashing .296/.384/.516 with Double-A New Hampshire.

Power is his calling card. Tellez has 50 extra-base hits as a Fisher Cat, and 20 of them have left the yard. When he really gets into one, they cross property lines. In our 2014 interview, Tellez told me he once hit a ball “over the fence, then a back yard, then a house, then over a cul de sac, and then into the next house across the street.”

He sees himself as more than a slugger. His minor-league numbers back that up, as does a left-handed stroke modeled after a pair of All-Stars’.

Tellez talked about his game — and the draft-snub chip that remains on his shoulder — prior to a recent game in Portland, Maine.

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Tellez on what has changed since two years ago: “A lot is different. I’m two years older and hopefully a little wiser. Defensively, I’m leaps and bounds ahead of where I was then. I’m a much more competent fielder. Everybody is confident in throwing the ball over to me and pitchers don’t worry about ground balls hit to me. Defense is what I’ve worked on the most. I’ve worked on it day in, day out.

“I’ve lost weight. I’m 245 now. The most I’ve been is probably about 275. That was around the time I signed out of high school.

“Overall, I think every year is going to be better. You’re going to learn more as you get older. You’re going to meet new people who give you better insight on what you can see, as well as what you can’t see. This game is all about learning and trying to get better every day.”

On power and his two-strike approach: “The power is always going to be there for me. But the way I see it, you have to work on being a better hitter to get to your power. I believe that the better hitter you become, the more power you’re going to have over time. You can’t hit home runs if you can’t hit the ball.

“I’ve watched a lot of guys over the years. The two I’ve really narrowed it down to watching — dissecting their swings and approaches — are Adrian Gonzalez and Anthony Rizzo. I look at how easy Gonzalez swings and I’ve adopted a little bit of what Rizzo does with two strikes. He takes out his leg kick and works on driving the ball the other way. He knows he can hit home runs to all fields, even with a two-strike approach and not having the leg kick. That’s what I’m doing now. If you can eliminate strikeouts… it’s a huge game-changer.

“I’ve always had [the leg kick], although it’s more of a knee tuck. It’s not a huge leg kick, like a Hanley Ramirez or anything like that. What I’m doing [with two strikes] isn’t pronounced; you can probably hardly even see it. I’m just trying to defend the strike zone and trying to make sure I’m squaring up the pitches I’m swinging at.”

On fastballs and plate discipline: “You’ll sometimes hear guys saying ‘Man, I’m getting lot of fastballs this year.’ I’ll never get a lot of fastballs. That’s just how it’s going to be for me, because of the power perception. There are a lot of first-pitch changeups, 2-0 changeups, 3-1 changeups, hitter’s count offspeed. In any situation, I’ll see offspeed.

“Sometimes’s I’ll get two changeups away, then they throw hard in, because they think I’m leaning. The pitcher is trying to outsmart me. And there are always going to be fastballs in that you’re going to get beat on. I’m trying to minimize that, too.

“Fastballs above the zone are always going to be something… with your two-strike approach, you need to know that a lot of pitchers like to elevate. You can’t just be looking curveball, changeup, slider. It’s all about strike-zone discipline. Regardless of whether the pitch is down or up, you don’t want to chase.”

On setting up pitchers and the chip on his shoulder: “I don’t set up pitchers, but in the same sentence, I can. Maybe I have a lot of at-bats against a pitcher and understand what he’s doing. Pitchers are often creatures of habit. I can maybe take a changeup a little differently than I would if I don’t know the pitcher. I can make him feel like he has me beat, then he’ll hopefully throw the pitch I’m waiting for — the one he thinks I’m not ready for.

“Personally, I think I can go up [to the big leagues] and play. It’s all in due time, but I think I’ll be able to play there at an elite level. I view myself as an elite hitter. I’m always going to have that kind of confidence when I walk up to the plate. I am going to fail 70% of the time if I hit .300 — that’s how the game works — but at the same time, I’m going to beat the pitcher.

“I have a chip on my shoulder. Hands down. I was supposed to be taken high in the draft and I ended up being taken in the 30th round. I’ve always been labeled as, ‘You’re not a high-profile player.’ That’s why I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder. I want to prove that I can be right up there with the guys who were taken in the first round.”

We hoped you liked reading Rowdy Tellez: A Future Jay and the Chip on His Shoulder by David Laurila!

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Damaso
Member
Damaso

He has legitimately had arguably the best season of any 1B prospect in all of baseball, as a 21yr old crushing AA with great contact skills, power, and patience.

Yet most every internet prospector, including fangraphs’ Longerhans, simply dismisses him as a non prospect.

Bizarre.

Damaso
Member
Damaso

Oh and thanks for the great article, David. Rowdy sounds as interesting as his name.

jdbolick
Member
Member

Vogelbach dealt with similar issues. Analysts aren’t going to be very high on heavy set, below average athletes because the margin for error is so small. Most prospects contribute in several areas and can pick up in one if another falters, but a guy like Tellez is 100% bat-only. And while the minor league stats for Tellez look great, honestly I’m not that crazy about his swing from what I’ve seen on video (I have not yet seen him in person). He has a lot of weight transfer in his lower body that if mistimed results in him getting out in front, then slapping at the ball. And while he can crush a pitch if everything goes right, he doesn’t have a lot of natural loft in his swing to tap into the raw power consistently at the major league level. The contact skills are impressive for someone with his power potential, but he’s a 30 runner and at best he’ll be passable defensively at first base. Most likely he’s a DH who occasionally plays first, and if he’s hitting 15-20 home runs as I suspect rather than 25-30, then that’s not all that much above a replacement level player.

jdbolick
Member
Member

You can see the lack of loft in his ground ball rate, as he’s had more grounders than fly-balls at every stop of his minor league career. That’s not a good thing for a 30 runner. He’s also not showing power to all fields, with 80% of his minor league home runs going to right field and only three total to center. I chalk that up to the weight transfer I mentioned, as you need to stay back in order to drive the ball to center or the opposite field.

bookproof
Member
bookproof

nm

reallyoldgeek
Member
reallyoldgeek

I wonder if there’s a definition of a ‘below average athlete” – is it just body type or is there some hand-eye coordination metric that is behind it? In the recent olympics the winner of the 10000 meters was 5 ‘ 9″ 128 lbs , and the discus winner was 6 ” 9″ 265 – both are obviously superb athletes at the very top of their sports . Of course each sport is biased towards a certain body type – but baseball, on the other hand has people playing at the elite level at a wide range of shapes and sizes from 5″ 5″ to 6’ 10 and more. I have not seen Rowdy in person either so he could be a below average athlete for all I know – I just wonder where i would look for the evidence if I wanted to prove it to myself

jdbolick
Member
Member

Watch any video of him attempting to run.

Damaso
Member
Damaso

all due respect JD but that’s a whole lot of nitpicky for a guy crushing like he is. the fact that he isn’t an all or nothing flyball slugger is a good thing, not a bad thing, and him being strictly a 1B/DH doesn’t put him in any kind of bad company. and 80% of HR to the pullside isn’t unusual, either.

there is one issue that actually does worry me, which you didn’t mention, and that’s his ability to hit LHP. that is something to worry about a bit.

jdbolick
Member
Member

Having pull-only power isn’t the end of the world, as that could be used to describe seven of the thirty-six batters who have hit at least twenty-five home runs this season, but it’s definitely not ideal. The problem is combining pull-only power with a swing that doesn’t consistently generate loft. Guys crushing in AA often don’t crush in the majors, and based on his swing my belief is that Tellez will be one of those who doesn’t. Given that he’s primarily going to be a DH, he’s going to need to crush in order to have significant value at the major league level.