Fitting how on August 31, the Blue Jays traded the face of the franchise in Donaldson and when September 1st rolled around we started seeing the new faces that one day may be Toronto Blue Jays.
It started with a waiver claim of right handed pitcher Mark Leiter Jr from the Philadelphia Phillies. The Blue Jays then called up a variety of prospects from September 4th-6th. Position players included CF Jonathan Davis, SS Richard Urena, LF Dwight Smith Jr, C Reese McGuire, and 1B Rowdy Tellez. Several pitchers in Jake Petricka, David Paulino, and Justin Shafer were also among the lucky few that have been called up to the team. I will admit in the short amount of time these players have been up some have had a significant impact on the team and I am surprised with some of the talent. I didn’t think the Blue Jays were very deep in the prospect pool after a bunch of trades back in 2015 to try and make a World Series run. However, I still do have my doubts with some of the prospects. It is rare that you get a prospect that comes up in September and surprises, but so far it has happened in a way I never imagined in a Blue Jays prospect that was not named Guerrero Jr, but Rowdy Tellez is doing just that.
Rowdy Tellez was called up from triple A Buffalo Tuesday. He was hitting .270 with 13 HRS and 50 RBI for the Bisons this season. By those numbers it is a surprise he was even called up, but sometimes it isn’t just in the numbers that a player gets called up. The Blue Jays obviously have seen some potential in Rowdy and are hoping that being called up to the MLB will unlock that untapped potential. It has been a rough time for the first baseman as a few weeks ago he lost his mother to brain cancer, which could be a reason why his numbers have not been where they could be, as that isn’t easy to deal with for any person regardless of your profession or career that would weigh on anyone. Regardless of what he has been dealing with personally he still has done enough work on and off the field to earn himself a call up to the Blue Jays.
I did not know much about Rowdy as he has been overshadowed by many of the top prospects of the Jays, but he sure has made me, along with the city of Toronto pay attention to him now. I was in attendance for his first MLB at bat on September 5th, which was a pinch hit double in the sixth inning as he drilled the ball into right field, also picking up his first career RBI. Rowdy then stood at second base and pointed his fingers to the sky. At first I had no idea why until the emotional post-game interview where they explained the story of his mother and how he had lost her just weeks before this game and he even drew the word “MOM” in the dirt at home plate. It was an emotional at-bat and overall game for the rookie who became only the second Blue Jays player in franchise history, joining Al Woods, to hit a pinch hit extra base RBI hit in their first at bat. That was one crazy start to a career. Sadly, his father who was on his way to Toronto from Sacramento, California had his flight delayed and missed the game, but he has been in attendance the last few games and saw even more memorable at bats from his 23 year old son.
His second career game, with dad in the stands, he went 3 for 4; all doubles. This was a piece of history as he became the first player in the live-ball era to record extra base hits in his first three plate appearances. The ball coming off his bat has had some serious power to hit, something you don’t expect to see or hear from a minor league player with no MLB experience. He also became the first player since 1920 to have 4 extra base hits in his first 5 plate appearances and he wasn’t done there. In the next game, his third career game, he went 2 for 5 with another two doubles, that gave him 6 doubles in 10 at bats. Only two AL players as rookies have been able to accomplish this feat since 1936; Rowdy Tellez and the great Joe DiMaggio. That is some pretty serious company to be in and this has been an incredible story to follow with the season the Blue Jays have had. Rowdy has not stopped. He hit his first career home run on September 8th, along with his first career single. This ended his doubles streak but he keeps on slugging and hitting, as he is currently hitting .571 through the first four games of his career.
This is an impressive and feel good story which has helped give the Blue Jays some sort of excitement for the fans. It gives Blue Jays fans a little bit of hope to look forward to too. Is Rowdy going to keep up this pace? No. It won’t continue at this rate once MLB pitchers learn to throw to him. He may be a good player for the Jays but he won’t be hitting .500 for his career, the league is too good to be able to sustain that type of pace. Something the Jays and their fans need to remember; as good as his run is right don’t expect him to be an MVP next season. He is still young and has a lot to learn in the big leagues. He will not continue to hit at the pace he currently has been so far in this September. It also does not confirm his roster spot next season as he will still have to put in the work to gain a spot on the team depending on if Smoak and Morales are still on the roster come 2019. But it does give the Blue Jays some options at first base which they have not had in some time.
It is nice to have the rosters extend in September but rarely do you ever see a player jump into the majors this well which is better than anything I thought the Jays had in their system aside from their top prospects. Rowdy is currently listed as the 29th ranked prospect in the Blue Jays system. Not many people really had him on their radar as someone we should watch but that’s why projected ranks often have holes in them and Rowdy is showing he is better than what we see on paper. Sometimes that is what it takes to make the majors as it is a completely different game than the minor leagues.
Overall, based on the players called up this September, we have a good starting prospect pool and that will only continue to grow with the pieces the Blue Jays already have in place and will be putting in place over the winter depending on the other trades or moves they make to better this team for the future. We know that not every prospect becomes what we think they will be or reaches their potential but there are also many players that come out of nowhere that were never really on the radar but just needed an opportunity and when it finally came, they showed their true game and talent and became a regular every day ball player. The Blue Jays are no strangers to late bloomers in the organization. Sometimes it takes some players years to fully develop.
Look at Jose Bautista, he was with 4 other teams before he joined the Blue Jays in 2008 and it wasn’t until 2010 when he hit his 54 home runs… his highest total before that was 16. Baseball is a funny game as you can’t get fully attached to top prospects or completely give up on others because everyone develops on such a different level compared to other sports. Rowdy was drafted in 2013 in the 30th round and he has only made his major league appearance now. He is now on the verge of showing why he should stay and not be sent back to the minors in 2019.
I am happy, though, after a long season of miserable baseball, a ton of injuries, and poor pitching the Blue Jays finally got something worth watching. If you are like me, I had no interest to tune into too many Jays games once they started playing so poorly but now I watch just to see what record Rowdy might break next, especially with the ability to get tickets for less than $10 right now. It has been a lot of fun to watch these young kids play ball for the Jays. The pitching prospects that have been called up, however concern me as I don’t see too many that could end up being major league pitchers. However, it is early and does take some time to be comfortable throwing to major league batters as well as getting used to the change in the ball and the game as a whole. I am sure that will sort itself out in the future as the Jays won’t be only throwing minor league pitchers out there every day. At the end of the day there is something there.
The Blue Jays have a ton of prospects and I don’t expect all of them to be part of the Blue Jays future but it gives them some serious options as I don’t remember a time where the Jays had a deeper prospect pool than what they have now. They seem to be making smart moves and if they keep on that plan they can keep stockpiling assets and young players and sometimes competition really helps players develop even faster.
As I have said before, I think it is time to give the team over to the young kids. If you are going to rebuild, it is time to do it properly. With a pool full of prospects the future looks great for the Jays and even more now as they are able to see what they have in the organization rather than watch injured and aging players play out the rest of the season. With the number one MLB prospect in Guerrero Jr at 3B, Bo Bichette at SS, Danny Jansen at C, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. at 2B, the Blue Jays are primed and ready to have one of the best young, high offence infields in the majors and once they fill out pitching and have a decent outfield this team is already on track to a very quick rebuild. Even with Rowdy in the mix, if he is able to perform even at 50% of his current performance in September, than it is a good start. The game of baseball has changed and it does not take as long anymore to rebuild and become a relevant franchise again in the MLB. Even thought this season for the Toronto Blue Jays may end up worse than they expected or had hoped, they have a bright future. The Jays are making the correct moves to hopefully be at least competitive in a few seasons, but there still remains a lot of work to do.
So what is next for the Blue Jays? I really think they need to take a long hard look at Rowdy and all the prospects they have brought up in September and truly think who should be on this team and build around that, along with other prospects that may not yet be ready for the MLB. The Jays should also look to trade players now that have value if they don’t see them in the plans in 2-3 years.
I think it would be a mistake to have another Donaldson situation where you hold onto a player longer than you should and end up trading a top notch player for a player to be named later. The Blue Jays, as said before, have a lot of work to do but they are on the right path and have a good base to begin building on. As of now, the AL East might be very difficult to compete in but if they continue with the correct moves, the future looks bright for Toronto and hopefully Rowdy will be a part of the plans to help the Jays win another division title and make the postseason yet again.