Tellez first name is Ryan, but almost never does anybody call him that. It's always "Rowdy." He earned his nickname while he was still in the womb.
“I was always moving around, I was kicking her stomach,” Tellez said. “My grandma actually said I was Baby Rowdy because of how much I moved . . . and the name kind of stuck.”
His grandmother has called him Rowdy his whole life. In fact, when she is asked what her grandson's real name is, she says, "I don't know! It's Rowdy. Quit asking me that."
- Rowdy was riding a motorcycle by the age of 3. As the story goes, rocking Rowdy could ride a dirt bike before he could talk or read.
But as he got bigger, the bike seemed smaller. And by age 10, his racing days were over. Baseball, the sport that Tellez once used to fill the time between races, became his No. 1 sport.
The choice changed his life.
"My dad raced, and all of my good friends did, too, so that was awesome," Tellez said. "But the older I got, I think we all figured out that I had a better chance of not getting hurt and making a career in baseball than I did racing. But I do miss going fast out there, because now I'm one of the slowest ones out there on the field."
Rowdy is from Elk Grove, Calif., a suburb of Sacramento. At the heart of that town is Elk Grove High, established in 1893. The school has a rich baseball tradition, one that includes six Division I Sac-Joaquin section titles and nine big league alumni—most notably Buck Martinez—as well as agent Scott Boras.
If Tellez goes to Southern Cal, which he committed to in his senior season of high school, he will be the first member of his family to attend a major university.
Rowdy's father, Greg, who works for Pacific Gas & Electric, and his mother, Amy, who works for the Elk Grove school district, both entered the workforce after graduating from high school.
Rowdy is a very good student, entering his senior high school season with a 3.2 grade point average. He is intelligent and has a strong work ethic to go with his natural ability.
July 12, 2013: Tellez signed with the Blue Jays on the deadline after they chose him in the 30th round, out of Elk Grove High School in California. His bonus was a rousing $850,000, via scout Darold Brown. It took that much to get Rowdy to not go to USC.
"I'd always been a Trojans fan and education is important to me," Tellez said. "But I wanted to start playing, and everything worked out the way I'd hoped."
The Blue Jays signed Tellez as a 30th-round pick after failing to sign first-rounder Phil Bickford. (Spring 2015)
In 2014, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Tellez as the 18th-best prospect in the Blue Jays organization. But he fell to # 30 in the spring of 2015.
But a fine 2015 season bounced all the up to 7th-best Jays prospect in the winter before 2016 spring training. And he moved up to #6 in the spring of 2017. Rowdy dropped to #21 in the spring of 2018, and to #29 in 2019.
Rowdy uses criticism of his big, burly body as a motivator. He plays with an edge.
Rowdy was a visitor at the Warren Park Junior Public School; it was something he looked forward to doing because he hadn’t had those experiences as a young student in California.
“I just want to have an impact on the kids,” Tellez said. “I didn’t have much of it growing up, of people coming into my classes. Not many athletes would have taken time out of their day to come back. So for us, we want to give back to the community that is giving everything to us. Toronto is a phenomenal city and they take care of us. We want to do the same for the kids.”
The visit from Tellez and teammate Trent Thornton—along with Blue Jays mascot Ace and members of the J Force —was a surprise for the students of Warren Park, who had a chance to hear from the two rookies, ask them questions, play a game with them, and glean advice from them.
Tellez shared with the students: “Trust everything that’s going on around you. Believe in what your teachers have to say, they’re not going to steer you in the wrong direction. Just have fun, enjoy it. You only go to school once, hopefully.”
Embracing their time with the players, the focus of the visit for the students centered around teamwork and learning how to be a good teammate, something the Big Leaguers know a little bit about.
“For me, it’s showing up every day with the attitude that you’re going to be the best that you can be for the people around you,” Tellez said. “Not being selfish and worrying about what’s going on for you, or upset about everything that’s going on if it’s not going your way, but being the same person day in and day out.”
Both players enjoyed the opportunity to get out into the local community and embrace the city they call home for the season. “For me, it’s a bigger impact than just the city and the kids,” Tellez said. “It’s personal, this is everything for us.” (Brudnicki - mlb.com - 5/22/2019)
Rowdy quit baseball in 2018. When his mother Lori lost her battle with cancer in August, he left the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons and headed home to California to be with his family. After some time there, Tellez decided that he wanted to stay, so he called the Blue Jays’ brass and told them he wouldn’t be coming back.
But 10 days after departing, Tellez rejoined the Bisons. And only six days after that, he made his Major League debut in Toronto. So what changed the slugger’s mind?
Teammate Devon Travis did. “He’s always been the one who checks in on me, makes sure I’m OK, tells me he loves me. He’s basically an older brother to me,” Tellez said.
“He said, ‘Hey, I think you should come back, it will help you get your mind off it.’ I don’t know if he knew anything and what their plans were, but every day I was gone, he would text me or call me and see how I was doing, just keeping my spirits up. He’s one of the reasons, if not the most important reason, that I came back to play and got to the Big Leagues last year.”
“It’s how he was raised, who he is and what he stands for. It’s hard to find in a person. He’s really genuine, he’s never going to blow smoke up your behind or tell you lies. He’s always going to be honest, whether it’s good or bad. He’s just one of those people you would call the ultimate teammate.” (Brudnicki - mlb.com - 7/11/2019)
Ahead of the September 25, 2019 game with the Orioles, Rowdy made a promise.
As he went through his pregame routine, Tellez touted a companion along with him. Five-year-old Emmett Cooper from Brantford, Ontario, joined the infielder in the dugout, toured the clubhouse and participated in drills during batting practice, and when the two met with manager Charlie Montoyo in the skipper’s office, Tellez made a prophetic commitment to the young fan.
“I’m not going to compare Rowdy with Babe Ruth, but he promised the kid that he was going to hit a home run, and he hit two, so that was pretty cool,” Montoyo said, after Toronto’s 3-2 win over the Orioles at Rogers Centre. “The kid had heart problems before, and he was in the clubhouse today, and we were talking.
“He came to my office, and I said, ‘Rowdy’s going to hit at least four more [homers] and he goes, ‘I just need one more,’ and he did it. That was pretty cool; a pretty cool moment when he did that. The kid is pretty happy about it.”
With the third multi-homer game of his career, Tellez became the fourth rookie in team history to reach the milestone mark of 20 round-trippers. And while he’s sure Cooper was happy with the performance, Tellez didn’t achieve what he’d told his young friend he would.
“I promised him three, and I failed,” Tellez said. “But it was a special moment for us. We have a connection, and I was glad that I could have him with me, took him around to tour the clubhouse and let him hang out with us. He came out on the field with me, he took some ground balls, played catch, stretched with us. Probably a fun day all around for both of us, but a little more special for him.”
Tellez met Cooper and his parents last year in Buffalo, N.Y., where he offered an autographed broken bat to Cooper. On the 25th, Cooper traded an autographed Tellez baseball card to the fan who caught the rookie’s home-run ball in exchange for the souvenir and promptly returned the milestone ball to Tellez.
“Hitting 20 is pretty special,” Tellez said. “One of those things that a lot of people dream of and work hard to do, but I couldn’t be more grateful to be in the position I am, with the organization I’m with, and everybody who’s gotten me to this point.” (Brudnicki - mlb.com - 9/25/2019)
Jan 24, 2020: Rowdy is a big proponent of homework. The man who meticulously kept notes on his opponents to maintain a competitive advantage throughout the Minor Leagues has continued to record personal tidbits during his time in the Majors, despite having a plethora of information readily available at his fingertips, because he places a sense of importance on compiling as much background information as possible.
The big first baseman emphasizes having that personal framework because he’s spent a significant portion of his career trying to show people—whom Tellez believes didn’t do their own homework—that he isn’t who they thought he was.
“I wanted to prove them wrong about me being a good teammate,” he said. “I wanted to prove them wrong in that I couldn’t hit [with velocity], I wanted to prove them wrong that I wasn’t an adaptable player. And I wanted to prove that for 894 picks [in the 2013 draft] teams missed . . . for 29 rounds teams missed.”
Not Just a Courtesy
Tellez was touted as a high-round talent ahead of the draft, but he slid down the board because teams didn’t do enough homework on him and his commitment to the University of Southern California, one he was hoping not to fulfill if he had a shot to play professionally. When the Blue Jays snagged him on the third day and in the 30th round, Tellez wasn’t even sure the organization expected to sign him, instead intending to do a favor for the slugger’s longtime coach and mentor, Dee Brown.
“No kid has the dream of slipping to the 30th round,” Tellez said. “I was still a 30th-round pick. “I was a courtesy pick for Brown, who was scouting me and drafted me. He was the guy who taught me everything about baseball, so it was kind of a courtesy pick for him. That’s what I was, and I wanted to prove everybody wrong, that I wasn’t just a courtesy pick.”
After getting his first callup to the Majors in 2018 and spending the majority of 2019 at the game’s highest level, Tellez combined to hit .241/.299/.475 with 25 home runs, 28 doubles and 68 RBIs over 134 games for Toronto. But just making it isn’t enough for the native of California.
“I knew I was going to be here,” Tellez said. “There was no question about that in my mind. Now, having success and having a sustainable big league career is what’s going to prove everybody wrong.”
A Chip on His Shoulder
Tellez intends to continue proving people wrong in Dunedin, Florida, when the Blue Jays' Spring Training begins and he starts his fight to be on the team’s Opening Day roster. Tellez split time between first base and designated hitter last year, but he was well aware that the club went into the winter discussing a need at first base. When Toronto signed Travis Shaw to a one-year deal with the intention of having him spend most of his time at first, Tellez became the underdog.
“People can doubt me all they want—it just fuels the fire,” Tellez said. “The underdog thing is something that’s been my entire career. Being a 30th-round pick, spending a lot of time in Triple-A, I’ve always been labelled an underdog, so that just fuels the fire. I’m going in every year like I always do, to impress and come back out on top.”
Putting in the Work
Tellez made a strong early impression at the Blue Jays’ annual WinterFest, when he brought with him more muscle mass and fewer pounds.
“Everybody expects me to fail, so I like to prove people wrong and I do it every time,” he said. “I’m just going to keep doing what I do and keep going in and putting in the work I can. I know I’ve impressed some of the people in the organization with the way I came in here, with the way I changed my body, how much stronger I got, and that’s what I like to do. I like to come in and impress people, surprise people and show them that I’m not just a throw-in player.”
He also spent his 2019 offseason making slight adjustments to his swing—lowering his leg kick and standing more upright in the box—and working on pitch recognition and selection to have fewer holes.
“Rowdy’s going to have a chance,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said. “I’m a fan of Rowdy. He’s still a young kid. Some guys take a little longer, some guys do it faster. That’s above-average power that he’s got and you don’t find that everywhere, so Rowdy’s going to get a chance to make the club.” (A Brudnicki - MLB.com - Jan 24, 2020)
2020 Season: Baseball Reference has him at a 0.5 WAR. FanGraphs 0.4.
Rowdy’s walk rate was 8.7% (up from 7.1 last year) and his strikeout rate was 15.7% (way down from 28.4).
His line drive rate was 20.0% (down from 23.7), ground ball rate 46.3% (up from 38.5) and fly ball rate 33.7% (down from 37.7). His fly balls were leaving the park 25.0% of the time (up from 21.6).
His hard contact rate was down 37.9 (from 41.6) and soft contact rate was up 20.0% (from 15.6%).
His BABIP was .276 (up from .267).
Tellez hit lefthanders (.333/.367/.444) and righthanders (.267/.340/.570). Less power vs. southpaws, but better batting average. He hit massively better at home (.348/.375/.761) than on the road (.239/.329/.444). With runners in scoring position, he hit .321/.400/.464.
Tellez by month:
July: .182/.240/.318/ with 1 home run in 6 games.
August: .267/.333/.583 with 5 home runs in 20 games.
September: .387/.444/.613 with 2 home runs in 9 games.
Then he got injured running over one of the "bullpen" mounds along the right-field line, just when he was really hot with the bat.
Defense? FanGraphs has him at a 3.1 UZR/150. I’m not a big fan of UZR for first basemen, but since we were comparing him to Vlad, he looked terrific out there. I don’t think he’s one that is going to look graceful, but he seems to be making himself a solid defensive first baseman.
FanGraphs has him at -2.3 runs on the base paths.
In games he started, Rowdy batted:
3rd: 7 times 4th: 4 times 5th: 8 times
6th: 5 times 7th: 1 time 8th: 4 times
The Blue Jays were 16-13 in games he started. (Tom Dakers@bluebirdbanter - Nov 29, 2020)
Nothing ever goes easy for Rowdy. He didn’t have a great start to the season. Then we traded for Daniel Vogelbach. Many of us took as a sign that Tellez was about to be moved on to another team. Vogelbach received all of 5 PA before being DFAed. (He would hit .328/.418/.569 with the Brewers, numbers that would have looked pretty good if they had come while Rowdy was on the IL.)
With his home/road splits, there is a worry that the season was a Buffalo mirage. Last year he hit much better on the road than at Rogers Centre. But, for all I know, the Jays might be playing some portion of the season in Buffalo again. (Tom Dakers@bluebirdbanter - Nov 29, 2020)
July 2021: The Blue Jays sent Rowdy to the Brewers in exchange for two righthanded pitchers.
“This team is in first place, and I’m here to contribute and play whatever role they need me to play,” Tellez said. “I know the National League is a little bit different than the American League. There are more pinch-hit opportunities and things like that. It’s something I have to understand and learn. But I’m trying to win a World Series with this team and help any way I can to get them there.”
Tellez found out about the trade on July 6, 2021, while playing with Triple-A Buffalo, the Blue Jays’ affiliate, from manager Casey Candaele. Tellez thought his skipper was joking and said, “You hate me, huh?” Candaele started laughing and then became serious and told Tellez again that he was dealt.
Candaele then gave the first baseman the rundown about the Brewers, and Tellez came away excited to join the team. “It really didn’t set in until I got on the flight,” Tellez said. “I was like, ‘I’m going to be in a different organization, different team, different group of guys.’ It’s going to be nice.
“Over [in Toronto], a great group of guys. They can hit. The first baseman [Vladimir Guerrero Jr.] is one of the best players in baseball. It’s nice to come over to the Brewers and have an opportunity to play. The change of scenery is always good. It’s always nice to have good people around you, a great environment. I talked to Craig Counsell. He is awesome. Everybody came up to me before I said, ‘Hi’ to them. That said something to me. It’s a great environment and a great group of guys to welcome you to a brotherhood. It’s nice to be a part of.” (Ladson - mlb.com - 7/8/2021)
2021 Season: 112 wRC+, 0.4 fWAR, .814 OPS, 7 HR, 174 PA
A midseason pickup, Tellez endeared himself to the fans of Milwaukee with legendary moments.
Tellez rebounded nicely from his struggles in Toronto, and ended up putting together a 112 wRC+ in his 174 plate appearances with the Brewers. Though he is unlikely to win any Gold Gloves, Tellez is the latest in the Brewers’ endless carousel of first basemen to make his mark.
Armed with a solid eye, and lots of pop, Tellez turned into a great option in his half-season with the Brewers, even after missing a chunk of September with a right patella strain. (Josh Waldoch - Nov. 13, 2021)
PALS WITH JANSEN
March 25, 2022: It’s been a couple of years since Danny Jansen popped the question, and Rowdy Tellez still wonders whether his friend was joking.
It was before Tellez was traded from the Blue Jays to the Brewers in 2021, and prior to the pandemic in 2020, when his best friend in baseball told Tellez he’d gotten engaged to his girlfriend, Alexis Vrabel. While they all talked, Jansen asked the question so flippantly that Tellez thinks it might have been in jest.
“Do you want to be the officiant?” Jansen said.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Tellez said yes.
“They were like, ‘Really?’ Tellez said. “I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it. I would love to.’”
That’s how Tellez came to be standing before Danny and Alexis and their families in Florida this past offseason, marrying two of his dearest friends.
It was the least Tellez could do. The Jansen family of Appleton, Wis., came into Tellez’s life when he needed them most, sometime after Danny and Rowdy were both drafted by the Blue Jays in 2013. Jansen, a catcher, was a 16th-round pick out of Appleton West High School, and Tellez was an above-slot sign in the 30th round out of Elk Grove High School, California. They rose together through the Minor Leagues with stops in Dunedin, Fla., then Lansing, Mich., and Buffalo, N.Y.
The Jansen family became even more important to Tellez after his mother, Lori, was diagnosed with melanoma in 2016, and later with terminal brain cancer. She passed away on Aug. 19, 2018—two weeks before Tellez made his Major League debut. He batted just after Jansen and knocked a pinch-hit double in his first career plate appearance.
The next night, Tellez hit three doubles, and two more the night after that. Flash forward to July 2021. When Toronto traded Tellez to Milwaukee, the Jansens made the 90-minute drive to Milwaukee to see Tellez’s first game at American Family Field with the Brewers.
“My family couldn’t make it out very often while my mom was sick, so Jansen’s family became my family,” Tellez said. “His family kind of adopted me. They are absolutely the best. They are great people. We became really close really quick.
“It was really special to have another player and his family in my corner when I needed it.” Tellez remembers a time when he and Danny played in A-ball, and Danny’s family was in Danville, Va., to see them play. Tellez, who’d received a big signing bonus in the Draft and could afford it, tried to pay for dinner at a wing joint. Steve Jansen, Danny’s father, grabbed his credit card and flung it clear across the restaurant. Tellez, 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, had to go crawl on the floor to find it.
Tellez let Steve Jansen pay, but made him promise that when Tellez made it to the Majors, he’d get to pick up the tab. That eventually came to pass, and the group dined at a restaurant better than a wing joint.
“I’ve never had a brother. Danny, he is my brother,” Tellez said. “Watching him smile, watching the way he went about his wedding day, I cried as much as he did. He’s such a good dude, just a genuine person.
“So, when he asked me to officiate, whether they were joking or not, I was like, ‘Yeah, this is going to be fun.”
Tellez wrote a speech with humor, but not too much, and sentimentality, but not too much, mostly because he knew he would be sobbing. He wrote 16 pages, then transferred it all to his iPad because he worried his tears might fall onto the paper and smudge his speech.
“His dad cheated and put sunglasses on right at the start of the wedding,” Tellez said. “I was really hoping to see Steve-O cry. But I had everybody going. I got some laughs in. I bawled my eyes out. I had the time of my life.” “Rowdy Tellez did an unbelievable job,” Jansen said. “I’ll tell you, that is not an easy task. When I asked him, he was like, ‘Yeah, of course I’ll do it.’ We eloped in 2020 and then we had the ceremony last year. It was a cool thing. That guy put in the preparation and he did an awesome job.”
Jansen requested some dad jokes and Tellez came through, closing with, “By the power vested in me by ‘I’m a minister dot com’ and the $49 I paid ...”
With that, he pronounced Danny and Alexis husband and wife.
“Rowdy had me in tears, and he was in tears,” Danny Jansen said. “He absolutely crushed it.” Tellez looked good, too. He was decked out in a black suit and matching hat.
“I knew he was going to come in looking dapper,” Jansen said.
They hope to see each other during the season. The Blue Jays travel to Milwaukee for a weekend in late June, and Tellez’s father plans to fly in from California to stay with the Jansens and celebrate Danny’s homecoming.
“His happiness is my happiness,” Tellez said. (MLB.com - March 25, 2022)
June 26, 2022: All Xander Brown wanted for his fifth birthday was to meet his favorite former Blue Jay. Rowdy Tellez gave him so much more than that.
There was a meeting, a signed jersey and two home runs from Tellez in the Brewers’ 10-3 win over the Blue Jays at American Family Field, giving Milwaukee a winning homestand and the Brown family an afternoon of memories they won’t soon forget. It’s safe to say that their long road trip from Ontario was worth it.
“He gave me something special,” Xander said. “I missed him since he left.”
The Blue Jays traded Tellez to the Brewers last July, and he’s since provided the jolt of left-handed power Milwaukee sought. That included home runs No. 12 and 13 this season, as the Brewers hit their way out of a hole created by Toronto catcher Alejandro Kirk’s three-run homer in the top of the first inning.
Tellez hit a two-run shot in Milwaukee’s three-run counterpunch in the bottom of the inning, and then another two-run blast in a go-ahead, five-run second as the Brewers roughed-up right-hander José Berríos, who has long given them trouble. Tellez added a walk in another late rally as Milwaukee scored in double digits at home for the first time since May 5—all with Xander watching from section 102 in a Brewers cap and shirt.
“He’s always loved Rowdy, and this year when the schedule came out, the Blue Jays and Brewers were actually playing on his birthday, so we thought, we have to do it,” said Christina Brown, Xander’s mother. “This is pretty much all he’s asked for since Rowdy got traded.”
Xander got more than he asked for. Tellez delivered his second multi-homer game this season and the seventh by a Brewer. And that was just the first two innings.
“I’m not a superstar. I’m not a big figure in baseball,” Tellez said. “I have a cool name so people remember that. But I think what I do is I’m super relatable to people. I always tell people, ‘I’m a normal guy with a bad hairline who has a cool job.’ That’s really it.
“For me, it’s about inspiring the next generation. Xander turned 5 today, and who knows? Maybe in 20 years he’s in the big leagues. You always want to have an impact on people. When you understand it’s bigger than the game, it’s pretty cool.”
The Browns live in Kitchener and Waterloo, twin cities about an hour southwest of the Blue Jays’ home at Rogers Centre. They left at 5:30 a.m. and spent about 11 hours on the road to fulfill Xander’s birthday wish, but didn’t know what to expect. Xander’s dad had reached out to the Brewers via Twitter with the request, and his mom said she didn’t make Xander any promises.
A member of the Brewers’ social media team told Rowdy about the young boy on a Sunday morning and gave him a jersey to sign. It was Tellez who asked to meet Xander.
“As soon as he saw Rowdy walk out, I was crying already,” said Christina.
“I was nervous, because with his autism he doesn’t do well with crowds,” she said. “I thought we’ll try our best. We made a sign and everything. And then when Rowdy came out, it was amazing.
“That just shows the type of person he is. He could have decided to sign the jersey and not come. He has no idea what that did for Xander.”
The home runs were the icing on the birthday cake.
“The first one, we’re in a crowd of Rowdy fans, so he was loving it,” Christina said of her son. “The second one, it was like, ‘Seriously?’
“I don’t know how we can top this birthday.” (A McCalvy - MLB.com - June 26, 2022)
2022 Season: Final season stats: .219/.306/.461, 35 HR, 67 R, 89 RBI
He’s always had a ton of power. Between 2019 and 2021, Tellez had a max exit velocity in the top 6% of baseball—but he never really got a full-time gig with the Blue Jays.
That’s why I was excited about this year—he was likely to have a full-time job (or at least one on the strong side of a platoon) with the Brewers and that’s exactly what he got, playing in 153 games, and the power was very much on display.
This year, Rowdy posted a 12.9% barrel rate (his best since 2019) and a 46% hard-hit rate (the best of his career). Oh yeah, and remember how he had posted a max exit velocity within the top 6% of the league the three years preceding this season? This year his max exit velocity was in the top 2%. The man launched some absolute bombs this year.
Now, if you’re like me, you probably saw Tellez’s 35 home runs and .219 average and said “ah, he’s a three-true-outcome guy. Lots of strikeouts, right?”
Surprisingly, no. He’s got the walk rate, a very solid 10.4%. But he actually had a pretty good strikeout rate too, striking out just 20.2% of the time.
So what gives? Some of it seems to have been some bad luck. He got BABIP’d a good bit this season, posting a .215 BABIP on the season, though given he’s very slow and a power hitter, you’d expect his BABIP to be relatively low (though probably not that low). Plus, his .219 average came with a .252 xBA, so there’s some reason to believe he could actually hit a little better.
I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye on Tellez going forward, if that average can come up and he’s still launching 30+ home runs, I think he’ll have plenty of value. And if you snagged him with one of your late draft picks, I think you were pretty happy with the results. (Ben Palmer - Oct. 15, 2022)
WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC
Feb 3, 2023: Rowdy, who was born in Sacramento, Calif., to a Jewish mother and a father with Mexican heritage, is the rare player eligible to represent three entries in this year’s World Baseball Classic. For Tellez, it presented a unique choice.
Both Israel and Mexico offered a roster spot to the 27-year-old first baseman, who powered his way through his best season in the big leagues in 2022 and led the Brewers with 35 home runs. Tellez chose Mexico, so he is poised to play alongside his Brewers teammate Luis Urías and other early commits like pitcher Julio Urías of the Dodgers and outfielder Randy Arozarena of the Rays. Joey Meneses of the Nationals, a right-handed hitter, and the lefty Tellez project as Mexico’s most prominent first-base options.
“We don’t have a lot of power like that,” said Rodrigo López, the former Major League pitcher who is Mexico’s general manager for the event. “He’s clutch. And actually he has good defense, too. He’s definitely a very important part for our team.”
It’s not the first time that Tellez has pondered playing in the event. When it was last staged in 2017, Mexico offered him a roster spot and Tellez, who was 21 at the time and coming off a .917 OPS at Double-A New Hampshire in the Blue Jays’ system, wanted to play.
“You have to ask the team’s permission, and the Blue Jays were like, ‘Yeah, you can go. We just want to make sure you understand there’s a chance you can make this roster,’” Tellez said.
That’s because Tellez was going to be in big league camp in 2017, and following the old Doug Melvin adage, anyone in big league camp has a chance to make the big league roster. So Tellez thought it would be in his best interests to stay with Toronto that spring, and ultimately he made it to the Majors the following year.
Now that he’s more established in MLB, Tellez is eager to experience international baseball. He played for Estrellas Orientales in the Dominican Winter League during the 2016-17 offseason and loved it, and coming into this year, it was full speed ahead for playing for Mexico in the next Classic.
Tellez needed some time to ponder the emotional tug from both sides. He was incredibly close with his mother, Lori, who fought a two-year battle with cancer before passing away in 2018, just two weeks before Rowdy’s remarkable Major League debut. He grieved with his father, Greg, whose own father, Rowdy’s grandfather, played baseball in Mexico and eventually made his way to Colorado and played for the Greeley Grays, founded as early as 1925 by migrant farmers. Tellez learned about his grandfather and his baseball roots via a book.
Tellez chose Mexico for a number of reasons, including some logistical ones. The paperwork was all in order, and Mexico is in the pool including the U.S. that will play at Chase Field in Phoenix, just down I-10 from the Brewers’ Spring Training home. Israel will train in Florida. So, the pieces fell into place.
“When I had a chance to talk to Rowdy during the season,” said Lopez, who does Spanish-language broadcasts for the D-backs, “he was like, ‘I want to play for Mexico.’ I think Luis Urías was a big part of that.
“That made me feel proud of my country. I don’t know if Rowdy has spent time in Mexico, but his roots are Mexican, and he wants to be part of this. It’s pretty exciting for me.”
Tellez, however, made clear that the Brewers are his priority. He was as disappointed as anybody when they missed the postseason last season.
“We're a team that came through this with our bull's-eye on our back,” Tellez said at the end of last season. “We let ourselves down, but we'll be back next year. There's always the year after, and I think in the long run, we're going to have a really good team.” (A McCalvy - MLB.com - Feb 3, 2023)
June 2013: The Blue Jays chose Tellez in the 30th round, out of Elk Grove High School in California. His bonus was $850,000, via scout Darold Brown. It took that much to get Rowdy to not go to USC.
July 6, 2021: The Blue Jays traded first baseman Rowdy Tellez to the Brewers in exchange for righthanded reliever Trevor Richards and pitching prospect RHP Bowden Francis.
Nov 30, 2021: The Brewers agreed to terms with Tellez on a one-year contract.
- Jan 13, 2023: Rowdy avoided arbitration agreeing to a one-year deal with the Brewers worth $4.9 million.
|Birth City:||Elk Grove, CA|
|Draft:||Blue Jays #30 - 2013 - Out of high school (CA)|
With Tellez, we're always talking about enormous home run power—lefthanded power that rates a 65 on the 20-80 scale. Get out the tape measure! Rowdy has more than pull power, hitting them far over the opposite field wall, too. His swing is compact and explosive. He has loft within his lefthanded stroke.
When he’s locked into that left-center gap, whether it be against lefties or righties, he’s going to be a tough out. (Spring, 2019)
Tellez has always has shown feel for hitting and good control for the strike zone, and he’s got plus power to punish mistakes when pitchers miss. He chased plenty of breaking balls early but adjusted and started laying off them, and he probably has enough bat speed to catch up to good fastballs. And he has a 50 for his hit tool. (Spring, 2018)
The thump in Rowdy's power comes from his physical strength, rather than pure bat speed. His timing at the plate improved in the 2018 season and he doesn't punch out a ton. (Spring 2019)
Rowdy comes only in extra-large. He is a big guy, like David Ortiz and Ryan Howard. He has a powerful lower half of his body.
“I’ve always had power,” Tellez said. “I’ve known I have power, but last year (2016) is when I really started to figure it out and I started becoming much more polished as a hitter.
“Knowing what pitches were coming, setting up pitchers and understanding how they were going to pitch me helped. It’s not about your swing and your mechanics. It’s about understanding and learning and having a plan and an approach as to how you’re going to hit.”
Tellez has a big lefthanded swing with the ability to pull it and lift the ball with his quick hands and smooth stroke, whipping the barrel through the zone. His power has a chance to be amazing, with the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field gap. He has stunning pull-side power and natural loft in his swing. He also excels at driving the ball to the opposite field.
He looks to get his hands extended but can be beaten up inside. He hangs in well vs. good lefthanded pitchers.
"I've always been confident in understanding the type of hitter I am and the type of hitter I will be and can be. I'm not saying I neglect my offense, or my defense, but I'm just most confident in hitting," Tellez said in 2016.
Tellez is a pure hitter with a sound and patient approach at the plate. He has impressive hand-eye coordination and a real feel for hitting. He is going to be a solid middle-of-the-order hitter.
Rowdy is aggressive, but not to a fault, trusting his hands.
“Knowing how to be a hitter,” said Tellez describes it. “I’ve always believed that to hit with power, the first thing you need to do is to learn how to hit.
“So becoming a comfortable hitter, knowing the zone, knowing what I can and can’t do and just using the whole field—I feel I did those things really well.”
He takes a good approach to the plate, rarely swinging and missing in the strike zone. He has loose hands at the plate, with a quick lefthanded stroke that features natural extension and loft. When Tellez gets pull-happy, his swing gets long, but he has lowered his hands in his load and reduced his bat wrap, making his swing more compact.
“He’s got a really good swing, a lot of naturalness and rhythm to it, and he’s going to come into some power which has already started to show,” Blue Jays GM Tony LaCava said. "Power without plate discipline is not quite as exciting, and is something that usually doesn’t transition well.” (May, 2016)
- Rowdy grinds through his at-bats, working counts and eventually turning things around.
“He’s a consistent worker, and a lot of credit goes to him for being proactive and seeking out daily opportunities to improve,” farm director Gil Kim said. “Hitting coach Stubby Clapp has worked tirelessly with him, and both manager Bobby Meacham and infield coordinator Mike Mordecai have really helped him improve as a defender.”
September 6, 2018: Tellez made Major League history by becoming the first player to record extra-base hits in each of his first three plate appearances.
September 7, 2018: Rowdy is apparently starting to make the Daily Double part of his regular routine. Tellez made Major League history for the second consecutive game during a 3-2 victory over Cleveland. If four doubles in his first two games wasn't enough, Tellez added two more in his third game.
The 23-year-old became the first player since 1913 to record six doubles over his first three games. He also became the first American League rookie to hit six doubles over a three-game span at any point of the season since Joe DiMaggio in 1936.
- April 11, 2019: Nathan Eovaldi throws the ball really, really hard. Rowdy Tellez swings the bat really, really hard. If you put those things together and you get good contact, you’re going to get a ball that was hit really, really hard.
Tellez smashed a two-run bomb off of Eovaldi in the third inning of a game in Boston. The speed of the ball off the bat was registered at a whopping 115.2 miles per hour. And, according to Statcast, travelled 505 feet. If that’s correct, it means Tellez has hit the longest home run in Fenway Park history, surpassing the famous red-seat Ted Williams homer from 1946.
June 13, 2019: The grand slam from Tellez made him the first rookie in Blue Jays history with two grand slams to his name.
August 13, 2019: Tellez says that he’s adjusted his stance to be slightly more upright, which gets him back to the “normal” feeling he had in prior seasons. This came from a conversation with Buffalo hitting coach Corey Hart, who also helped Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernández, among others, rediscover their swings during demotions earlier this season. Tellez believes that this will allow him to drive the ball to the opposite field on pitches that he was fouling off earlier in the season.
“I wasn’t playing very well. I wasn’t playing up to what I was supposed to be doing,” Tellez said. “They needed to do whatever they could to help the team win and that was an option they had to make. I accepted it and went down there with a positive mindset, the mindset that I needed to get better and improve on what I was doing. I was able to do that and get back up here."
The Blue Jays recalled Rowdy Tellez from Triple-A Buffalo prior to the game at Rogers Centre and plan to give the first baseman another opportunity to prove himself down the stretch.
The 24-year-old opened the season with Toronto and appeared in 78 games, in which he hit 14 homers and drove in 40 runs. But manager Charlie Montoyo was more concerned with the numbers that support those counting stats, like Tellez’s .227 average and .280 on-base percentage (ouch).
“In the big leagues, they find your hole and they keep going at it,” Montoyo said. “He couldn’t make an adjustment with that, so it seemed like everybody was throwing either high fastballs or sliders in on him, and he was swinging and missing. He had to make an adjustment.” (K Matheson - MLB.com - August 13, 2019)
Rowdy also spent his 2019 offseason making slight adjustments to his swing—lowering his leg kick and standing more upright in the box—and working on pitch recognition and selection to have fewer holes. (Jan. 24, 2020)
May 9, 2022: Brewers first baseman Rowdy Tellez drove in 12 runs last week. That’s just one reason why he was named NL Player of the Week. Most of Tellez’s run production came during one historic night to remember. His eight RBIs versus the Reds set a Brewers franchise record and were part of a four-hit performance that included two home runs.
But Tellez’s punishment of the baseball spanned more than just one game. He also went deep on Tuesday, clocked two doubles Thursday and recorded a two-run double – all of which came in Brewers wins.
Tellez batted .321 for the week, and seven of his nine hits went for extra bases. The Crew now have back-to-back NL Player of the Week honorees as Tellez follows Willy Adames, who won for his efforts during the week of April 25. They are the first teammates to accomplish that feat since Cardinals outfielders Tyler O’Neill and Harrison Bader did so last September. (B Murphy - MLB.com - May 9, 2022)
July 5, 2022: Tellez tied a franchise record. His two-run homer in the first inning marked his tenth consecutive hit going for extra bases.
2022 Season: On one hand, last year was a breakout of sorts for Tellez, who led the Brewers with 35 home runs. But despite that, he was worth just 0.8 FanGraphs WAR, meaning there is room for much more production.
The rule changes in 2023 could help; no Brewers player is happier to see the end of extreme infield shifts than Tellez, the left-handed slugger who was shifted against 78 percent of the time last season, according to Statcast, and batted .215 on balls in play. Of the 225 hitters who put at least 250 balls in play last year, only five of them had a greater deficit between his expected batting average and his actual batting average. (Tellez’s xBA was .252 and his actual average was .219.) (Adam McCalvy - MLB.com - Dec 26, 2022)
Rowdy has limited range and athleticism at first base. He needs to continue working on his below-average defense. He puts in a lot of work to be a better defender with improved footwork around the first base bag. His body will require continued maintenance as well. He provides a big target.
Tellez gets a 45 for his arm, but only a 40 for his below-average defense. He is a below-average runner. (Spring 2019)
Tellez has worked hard to improve his defense at first base.
"He's gotten better and better it seems every time we go out there," said Bobby Meacham, New Hampshire Fisher Cats skipper. "He's got a long way to go, but he's doing very well right now and I expect him, when it's all said and done, to be at least an average Major League first baseman."
Like his offense, Tellez's defense is rounding into form as he has committed just one error in 214 chances this season, helping New Hampshire to a .978 fielding percentage, second-best in the league.
But Tellez knows the best way for him to keep developing is to stay grounded and not let either high or low moments dictate the player he knows he is, one who is confident and willing to work hard to get better.
"His improvement over the last couple of years, from when I saw him in just Spring Training alone, shows you he's willing to put in work to get things done to get to where he needs to be," said Meacham. "So I think the future is bright for Rowdy." (5/17/2016)
- In 2022, Tellez played 139 games at first base for the Brewers.
Rowdy is pretty slow. In 2012, he was timed at 7.42 in the 60.
- Tellez is a base-clogger. He gets a 20 on the 20-80 scale.
August 8, 2015: Tellez was on the D.L. with a hamate bone injury.
“We were in Daytona Beach, Florida and on just a little base hit up the middle, I broke my hand,” Tellez said of the injury. “I got to first base and couldn’t open up my hand.”
But he played in the Arizona Fall League in 2015.
July 19-27, 2016: Rowdy was on the D.L.
- Aug. 17, 2020: Tellez has entered concussion protocol after taking an elbow to the face against the Orioles.
The incident occurred when Tellez took contact from Renato Nunez while reaching into the base-path to make a defensive play. Tellez temporarily remained in the game before being lifted for a pinch-hitter.
Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said the 25-year-old was considered day-to-day.
Sept 9-28, 2020: Rowdy was on the IL with right knee strain.
Sept 12-Oct 2, 2021: Rowdy was on the IL with right patella strain. Tellez appeared to injure himself when sliding into third in a game against the Indians on Sept. 11. He is expected to miss a minimum of two weeks of action.
“He reaggravated the knee that’s bothered him from time to time this year,” manager Craig Counsell said.