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Updated: Oct 14, 2021

Rowdy Tellez is an interesting player to profile. Still just 25 (He'll be 26 heading into 2021), 2020 marked his third consecutive season seeing partial time in the majors since he debuted in 2018. All three of his stints were markedly different.

In 2018, he played 23 games. In 73 plate appearances during that span, he had 4 HR and slashed .314/.329/.614. Not bad, but he also walked only 2.7% of the time (League average in 2018 was 8.7%) and made contact at a rate of 70.8% (76.9%). He also struck out 28.8% of the time. That pretty .314 batting average is largely attributable to a .391 BABIP. His career BABIP as a big-leaguer is .285 (609 PAs).

Over 409 plate appearances in 2019, Tellez hit 21 HR, but while his contact rate and strikeout rate held steady, the BABIP crashed by 124 points and he slashed a paltry .227/.293/.449. As a result, I paid Tellez no attention in 2020. He wasn't a draft-worthy player except in the deepest of leagues. Then I saw this Tweet from Mike Kurland pop up in my feed:

He said to look at Tellez, so I did. Actually, I had already looked at him, though projecting 1,000+ players has a way of allowing a person to gloss over some things. But I did go back to see what I projected. This is is the line:

Not bad at all, but what on earth happened in 2020 to justify this solid line in not even a full season? As Mike points out, Rowdy changed his approach. Start with his hit distribution:

Though 2018 actually looks the most evenly distributed than 2020, it was a small sample and the much larger sample of 2019 is more informative of his natural tendencies. That year, Tellez essentially ignored one-third of the field. In 2020, he increased his oppo rate from 19.5% to 26.3% while posting the lowest pull % of his major league career, effectively using all fields.

More importantly, Rowdy Tellez made much better contact in 2020, raising his rate to 78.7%, which is not only a considerable increase from his own major league best of 70.8%, but it puts him above league average (75.3% in 2020). It also appears as though he traded nothing away for that increased contact given that he increased his power output at the same time. Indeed, it can be easy to miss an increase in power output when total home runs decrease (Tellez's HR output decreased from 21 in 2019 to 8 in 2020), but look at Tellez's home runs per plate appearance by year:

This increase in power output appears to be legitimate. His HR/FB ticked up a bit, but a jump from 21.6% to 25% isn't a wild swing. He wasn't hacking away either. from 2019 to 2020, Tellez increased his walk rate from 7.1% to 8.7% and cut his strikeouts from 28.4% to 15.7%, nearly cutting it in half.

It's difficult to conclude anything except that in 2020 Rowdy Tellez adopted a new approach and became a better hitter. The one wrinkle I see is a reduction in barrel rate from 13.2% in 2019 (good for top 9% of the league) to 8.4% in 2020, but that's a quibble in an otherwise solid statcast profile.

In terms of playing time, he wasn't playing and starting every day even towards the end of 2020, but between 1B and DH, he should continue to get semi-regular time. With 450 plate appearances I have him falling backwards into 25+ HR. It's noteworthy that all 8 of his HR in 2019 came against righties (with a .267 BA), but he actually hit .333 against lefties with more doubles in roughly one-third of the plate appearances, which strongly indicates that he would do fine in a full-time role. So expect the part-time projection and be happy to bank any extra gravy.


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