The team’s 30th-round pick in 2013 has a .280 average and .379 on-base percentage in 13 games this spring, but Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro warned against looking too much into those numbers.
“You exercise extreme caution going through a spring training and to not making spring evaluations,” said Shapiro on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown on The FAN 590. “One of the first wise older baseball guys I was around one time told me, ‘What blooms in the spring wilts in the summer.'”
Tellez spent last season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in double-A ball, leading the team in home runs (23), batting average (.297), and OPS (.917). Toronto’s options at first base out of camp look to be some combination of Justin Smoak and Steve Pearce, with some Kendrys Morales sprinkled in.
Still, Shapiro essentially ruled out the possibility of the soon-to-be 22-year-old Tellez playing in the majors before getting an at-bat with Buffalo.
“I would never commit beyond the start of the season, but (we’re) absolutely committed at 21 years old, never having had a triple-A at-bat, to him going to triple-A. I think those are the kinds of decisions, when you make them based on spring training and even based on a double-A season, that shortchange the foundation (of a player). You pay for it because you’re trying to rush the performance.”
Ultimately, the Blue Jays aren’t going to push Tellez into a big-league role unless he absolutely gives them no other option.
“If Rowdy Tellez goes to triple-A and has 200 outstanding at-bats and starts dominating there and we have a gap of performance at the major-league level, you can bet he’s going to enter into the conversation of alternatives to improve the club there,” said Shapiro before later adding, “the best decisions we make as a front office are the ones the players make for us.”
While Tellez has been doing his part to make the majors, he hasn’t been the only player to turn heads this spring.
Pitcher Tim Mayza has held opposing batters to just three hits in 4.1 innings, while striking out seven.
“He’s a lefty that’s been in the mid-90s with a high-80s slider and lefties have had zero chance and righties haven’t had much of a chance against him down here,” said Shapiro. “He’s been impressive in the past, he’s had strike-throwing issues, he’s always had power stuff.”
Mayza was left unprotected going into the Rule 5 draft in December, with Shapiro saying the team “debated and debated” giving him a roster spot. Luckily for Toronto, no one took the Allentown, Pa., native.
“He was probably the last guy that we did not protect off the roster, and I’m looking at him down here going, ‘Thank God he didn’t get taken,’ because he’s really been good.”
The Blue Jays have gotten off to a slow start in spring training, though Shapiro said he felt “fine” about the team’s performance and isn’t concerned with status of injured regulars Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Donaldson, Devon Travis, and Pearce.
“I completely understand why anyone not that’s not here would (have concerns) but I have none, as of right now,” said Shapiro. “That’s a day-to-day thing because every single guy is progressing at or ahead of what our expectations were.”
Shapiro also touched on the team’s ambition for a new spring facility in Dunedin. He will meet with Pinellas County officials on Wednesday to discuss funding for an $81-million project where more than half of the costs would be picked up by the county.
“Everything’s progressing. It’s not an easy process, it’s cumbersome,” said Shapiro. “I’m a little bit impatient with it but I feel like we continue to get positive feedback, we continue to make progress, and I think we will know a lot more by early summer.
“I will say if by early summer we don’t have at least confidence that a deal’s moving forward, we’ll start to look at alternatives.”