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FSL notes: Jays' Tellez elevates his game

First baseman brings home run power and more to Dunedin's lineup
August 5, 2015

No league suppresses home runs quite like the Florida State League, which is infamous with young hitters for its distant fences, strength-sapping humidity and unfavorable winds.

Rowdy Tellez, though, hasn't been affected, quickly putting on a power display after being promoted to Dunedin from Lansing of the Midwest League. In fact, the Toronto Blue Jays' No. 8 prospect is relishing the opportunity to hit at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

Tellez had five homers in his first nine games after joining Dunedin on June 25 after the Midwest League All-Star Game and seven after his first 26 contests. That matched his total in 68 games with the Lugnuts.

"It was a pitcher's park in Lansing," the massive first baseman said. "Where I usually hit with power, it was 405 feet to the fence."

The left-handed hitter is more than just a home run threat, though. He had a .296 batting average and .351 on-base percentage in the first half with Lansing while hitting 19 doubles and driving in 49 runs.

Tellez cooled a little after his hot start with Dunedin, but he still had 28 RBIs through his first 34 games and was hitting homers and driving in runs at a pace that would have had him leading the Class A Advanced league by a wide margin if he'd been in the circuit all season.

No one in the offensively challenged Florida State League had more than 12 homers and 68 RBIs entering action Aug. 4.

"I've changed up my swing a little bit, but I don't think I've sacrificed anything," said Tellez, who was batting .414 with runners in scoring position and had a four-hit game among his nine multi-hit outings with Dunedin. "I don't want to be a one-dimensional hitter."

It is Tellez's plus-plus power, though, that sets the 20-year-old apart, and Toronto has to feel fortunate to have him. If the Blue Jays had been able to sign Phil Bickford, their first-round pick in the 2013 Draft, they wouldn't have Tellez.

The California high school slugger had seemed so firmly committed to the University of Southern California that he wasn't taken until the 30th round of the Draft. But when Bickford didn't sign, the Blue Jays landed Tellez less than an hour before the signing deadline for $850,000 -- their largest Draft payout that year.

"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."

Rowdy is a nickname seemingly more appropriate for a football player or wrestler, and Tellez looks the part at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds. He got it, though, long before he started playing sports.

"I was moving around a lot in my mom before I was born, so they called me Baby Rowdy," said Tellez. "The name Rowdy stuck and I like it. No one calls me Ryan. My grandmother on my dad's side is 95, and she doesn't have any idea what my real name is. She's just always known me as Rowdy."

In a few years, Rowdy Tellez may be a familiar name to Major League fans. The Blue Jays appear to have another slugger on the way.

In brief

Batting race: With five weeks left in the regular season, the Florida State League batting race was a dead heat between Jeff McNeil of St. Lucie and Alex Swim of Fort Myers. Both were hitting .313, six points better than Clearwater's Willians Astudillo. McNeil, a 23-year-old third baseman, has been at or near the top all season, taking a .348 average into June. But the 24-year-old Swim, who plays first base and the outfield in addition to catcher, passed him briefly in late July. Both were college players taken in the 2013 Draft with McNeil going to the New York Mets in the 12th round out of Long Beach State and Swim taken in the 22nd round out of Elon by Minnesota.

Double figures: Daytona right-hander Jackson Stephens (10-5) became the Florida State League's second 10-game winner when he allowed just two hits over six scoreless innings against Fort Myers on July 31. Cincinnati's No. 20 prospect was 5-0 in his last six decisions while lowering his ERA from 3.76 to 3.17. Stephens, 21, had 75 strikeouts to 25 walks in 110 2/3 innings over 20 starts. He was an 18th-round pick in the 2012 Draft out of an Alabama high school and spent the previous two seasons in the Class A Midwest League, winning a combined five games.

Moving up: Daytona, fighting Clearwater for first place in the North Division just like in the first half, took a double blow when infielder Alex Blandino and right-handed starter Sal Romano were promoted to Double-A Pensacola a day apart at the start of August. Blandino was hitting .294 with seven homers and a .370 on-base percentage, while Romano was 6-5 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 outings. Blandino, 22, is Cincinnati's No. 7 prospect, while Romano, 21, is ranked No. 17. Blandino was the Reds' first-round pick in the 2014 Draft out of Stanford.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to