Less than a month ago, the Blue Jays traded their primary designated hitter, Kendrys Morales, to the Oakland Athletics. While somewhat surprising given the money owed to Morales, the Jays willingness to retain salary and Oakland’s need to replace the injured Matt Olson facilitated a trade that was completed less than twenty-four hours before Opening Day in Toronto.
While the trade was initially made with an eye towards roster flexibility, it looks as though one big man may be in the process of replacing another in Toronto. After beginning his major league career in September of 2018 with a world-beating hot streak, Rowdy Tellez is picking up where he left off in some potentially important respects.
Tellez’ .314/.329/.614 September debut was rightfully viewed with a skeptical eye due to a .391 BABIP and some pretty atrocious plate skills (2.7 percent walk rate, 28.8 percent strikeout rate). But Tellez did grade out well in many of Statcast’s batted ball metrics, and has continued to hit the ball hard into 2019.
|Brls/PA||MLB Avg||Avg. Exit Velocity||MLB Avg||Sweet Spot%||MLB Rank|
When it comes to Fangraphs’ own Hard and Soft Contact percentages, Tellez has also been above average – posting a Hard Contact% of 43.8 and a Soft Contact% of 15.6 in his brief major league career.
Tellez has also made a point of keeping the ball off the ground too often, posting a ground ball rate of 35.4% in his 150 major league plate appearances. And when Tellez does put the ball in the air, he is among the league leaders in exit velocity.
|Rank||Player||Results||Avg. Exit Velocity (mph)|
The Blue Jays have targeted players that hit the ball hard for several years now, the rub being these hitters are often flawed. Teoscar Hernandez, Randal Grichuk and the recently traded Morales all hit the ball hard, but plate approach or batted ball profile issues prevented them from optimizing their hard hit rates. Is Tellez any different?
Tellez continues to strikeout too often (30.4 K% this season), but he has elevated his walk rate, walking six times in 77 plate appearances in 2019 – a clip more in line with the plate discipline he showed in the minor leagues.
While batted ball and exit velocity data take less time to normalize than other statistics, normalization doesn’t mean that players will own the same profile moving forward, only that the numbers produced in the data to date is unlikely to be the result of good luck. The results have been good for Tellez, but we’re still talking about a player with two months of major league experience. Pitchers will adjust as he makes his way around the league for a second time and he will be forced to adjust back. He’s also struggled against lefties in his limited action against them.
A regressed BABIP means Tellez won’t hit .300, but if he can maintain a league average walk rate, he could provide 30-plus home runs with an average that won’t kill you. His batted ball metrics and contact profile look similar to Peter Alonso and Franmil Reyes, two players that get far more attention in the fantasy baseball world.
|PA||Avg. Exit Velocity||Pull%||GB/FB||Hard Contact||xBA|
Tellez could provide a similar amount of power production at a fraction of the price. As of writing Tellez is owned in less than five percent of ESPN and Yahoo leagues, and less than 20 percent of CBS leagues.
Tellez has demonstrated an ability to hit the ball very hard. Like Alonso and Reyes, his success moving forward is far from certain given his limited major league track record. But minor league plate discipline (.345 minor league OBP) and an opportunity to play in Toronto, mean that if he does continue to hit the ball like he has, his production could outperform many peoples’ pre-season expectations and play in plenty of fantasy formats.
Nick thinks running a Major League or fantasy baseball team is incredibly easy. Until he is handed one of those coveted GM positions, his writing at RotoGraphs will illustrate how to do it properly. Fantasy baseball trade consultations and anything else can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeted to @nickdika.