With the loss of Daniel Vogelbach and the slumping bat of Keston Hiura at the first base position, David Stearns and Company pulled off a trade that sent Trevor Richards and Bowden Francis to Toronto for Rowdy Tellez. Tellez’s slash line in Toronto was a paltry .209/.272/.338 in 151 plate appearances. In his first 8 plate appearances with the Brewers, the results are even worse. His slash in his short time in Milwaukee is .143/.250/.143.
With all of that acknowledged, the Brewers front office is likely looking at a track record of success between 2018-2020 and ongoing potential as opposed to the 159 plate appearances he’s had in 2021. What Rowdy Tellez brings to Milwaukee is a left-handed power bat that can take advantage of the friendly confines of American Family Field.
On the surface a Keston Hiura/Rowdy Tellez platoon at first base seems obvious. However, when you break down Tellez’ splits against right-handed and left-handed pitching, he actually performs pretty well against each. Against right-handers, Tellez sports a career .233/.296/.456 slash line across 564 plate appearances. Against left-handed pitching, he slashing a career .261/.314/.451 in 204 plate appearances. In his breakout 2020, the splits are even more interesting. Against right-handers, his slash was .267/.340/.570 vs. a slash line against left-handers of .333/.367/.444.
Tellez looks like a hitter that can handle both right-handed and left-handed pitching pretty well. Could Milwaukee be looking at Tellez as their everyday option at first base? For 2021, I would bet that the idea of a soft platoon is in place for Hiura and Tellez, but Tellez could be the long-term, everyday answer for Milwaukee at the position. At least, the Brewers’ front office probably hopes so.
Tellez is under club control for three more years beyond 2021, and be will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter. Tellez also gives the Brewers an opportunity to put some competitive pressure on Keston Hiura to get things together. If he cannot and Tellez can hit, Hiura could be on the Orlando Arcia path. Hopefully both can put it together, because if both were to reach their potential, they would make up a powerful duo in the middle of the Brewers lineup long-term.
Speaking to some of this David Stearns offered,
The need here is clear. We lost a left-handed hitter [Vogelbach] who was hitting in the middle of our lineup and doing a nice job. We were seeking to replace some of that production,” Brewers president of the baseball operations David Stearns said. “In spurts, Keston has done a really good job as well. He will continue to get some opportunities. But the ability to add a left-handed hitter to our lineup, that is a unique opportunity at this time of year, so we were happy to [make the trade].
This is a player who has consistently put the bat on the ball and he has consistently hit the ball hard,” Stearns said. “Those are two pretty good attributes for Major League hitters. He has had success in the Major Leagues. He has a long track record of success in the Minor Leagues. He got off to a slow start at the Major League level, but we think the underlying ingredients are pretty sound. We think he should be able to perform at the Major League level. We are going to give him a shot.
The player that the Brewers should get is a left-handed bat that can put the ball over the fence, hit the ball hard at a consistent clip, and make contact. Even in a tough 2021, Tellez obviously hits the ball hard. Look at his exit velocity percentiles for 2021 so far.
There is a lot to like about his 2020 percentiles as well that reinforces the comments made by Stearns.
In AAA Buffalo where he had to play to get at-bats because he was blocked by Vladimir Guerrero Jr., he slashed .298/.400/.638 and batted .366/.450/.688 in 26 games (109 plate appearances) there back in 2019 as well. He crushed the ball at the AAA, and remember, he is just 26 years old. Tellez is about to enter his prime. Look for Brewers’ hitting coaches to work with Tellez to use the entire field. At American Family Field, Tellez should be confident that he can get to his power at any part of the ballpark.
Brewers’ Nation should expect a professional hitter that will hit for power and put the bat on the ball pretty well for someone of power potential. He will not be a game changer on defense at first base, but he should be able play at an average or slightly below average clip.
Tellez has the potential to be a real middle-of-the-order threat that opposing teams will have to account for. That means he provides more protection for Christian Yelich, which hopefully means he gets to see better pitches. Even if he doesn’t, Tellez could be the hitter that makes opposing teams pay consistently when Yelich is on base as evidenced by his elite level OBP this season (.402).
Look for Tellez to be a staple in the Brewers’ lineup for the next couple of years at first base. He is the type of player that could put up really nice power numbers and hit fourth or fifth in this lineup. Going into the second half of the season and hopefully a playoff run, the Brewers are doing all they can to build depth around the diamond. Tellez is one more example of that. Along with Willy Adames, who has already performed at a high level, Rowdy Tellez could prove to be as savvy a trade as they come.
Baseball statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Savant