By: Andrew Hendriks
Canadian Baseball Network
DUNEDIN, Fla. – Had it not been for the mentorship he gratefully received from veteran players such as Todd Helton, Jamey Carroll, Nomar Garciaparra or Derek Jeter, Troy Tulowitzki may have never become the player he is today.
Entering his 12th major league campaign, Toronto’s five-time All-Star understands the value of being a clubhouse leader both on and off the field.
“Honestly, what I come here every day to do is try and be a good teammate to these guys. Help as many guys as I can and just try to just go about my business,” Tulowitzki said following his spring training debut on Sunday.
Working predominately with the team’s infielders, Tulowitzki has taken several of the organization's younger players under his wing this spring in an effort to use his experience to help guide his teammates through the early stages of the season.
One of those players is top hitting prospect Rowdy Tellez, a 21-year-old first baseman who, after slashing .297/.387/.530 over 514 plate appearances in New Hampshire last season, projects to start the year with triple-A Buffalo when camp breaks later this spring.
“Rowdy’s great. He’s a good kid,” admitted Tulowitzki. “He listens, he works. When you have both those things and talent, that makes for a good player.”
Selected by the Blue Jays in the 30th round of 2013’s June amateur draft, Tellez has notched 326 minor league games over the past four seasons.
Rivaled only by his double-A performance last year, the 6’4” product of Sacramento, CA appeared in 21 games with the Salt River Rafters, Toronto’s Arizona Fall League (AFL) affiliate, in 2015.
Often viewed as the Cape-Cod League for professional who are currently knocking on Major League Baseball’s door, the AFL serves as a means of pitting the game's top prospects against each other in short-season play.
For his part, Tellez shared the Rafters lead in home runs (4), RBI (17) and total bases (40) during his time in the prestigious circuit.
Two years removed from establishing himself with a strong fall showing, Tellez is in the midst of experiencing his second spring training assignment with the big club and Tulowitzki likes what he’s seen so far out of the Blue Jays prospect.
“It’s just fun for me to watch these guys grow. Even for (Tellez) from last spring training to this spring training. To see how much better of a player he is and how much better and more comfortable he is in the clubhouse.” added Toronto’s gold glove caliber shortstop.
Tulo’s not the only one to take notice this spring.
“Tellez, he’s not going to make the team, but he’s high on our list. Probably as high as anybody,” explained Blue Jays manager John Gibbons earlier this month.
Gibbons’ comments came only a few days after MLB.com named the left-handed swinging slugger as the Blue Jays #5 prospect behind only Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Sean Reid-Foley, Anthony Alford and Richard Urena, respectively.
Checking in with above-average hit and power tools, Tellez has impressed the Blue Jays brass with his commitment to further developing his game both offensively and with the glove.
Should he continue to develop at a rapid pace while demonstrating the maturity to continually work on his game and absorb from his surroundings, one would think that the big leagues will come calling soon enough.