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Prospect Tellez eager for clean slate in '18

First baseman endured adversity on, off field in '17 as mom battled Stage 4 melanoma
MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- The 2017 season was a learning experience for prospect Rowdy Tellez, both on and off the field. It's also something he doesn't want to have to go through ever again.

It was an extremely difficult year for the promising first baseman, who struggled with the bat but more importantly had a family emergency to deal with away from the diamond. Prior to the season, Tellez received word that his mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma.

TORONTO -- The 2017 season was a learning experience for prospect Rowdy Tellez, both on and off the field. It's also something he doesn't want to have to go through ever again.

It was an extremely difficult year for the promising first baseman, who struggled with the bat but more importantly had a family emergency to deal with away from the diamond. Prior to the season, Tellez received word that his mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma.

The diagnosis led to an extremely trying time for the Tellez family, but in early July they received word that doctors stopped her treatment because she was cancer free. For the first time in months, the Tellez family had something to celebrate, but it's clear it took a toll on the young slugger.

"We have a job to handle, but we also have a family to take care of and support," Tellez said while recently taking part in Major League Baseball's Rookie Development Program. "Family is everything to me. I was raised to be really close to my family and when the event happened, it was really hard to handle. I think I took it harder than anybody being that I don't live with my family, I live across the country in Florida now.

"It was a difficult transition, it was hard to understand and I was really thankful the Blue Jays were able to keep people in my corner to help me throughout the year. Learning how to deal with adversity -- not just on the field with struggles, but the adversity of everything -- happens for a reason. Family struggles are a part of life and how do you handle those while you're going through a season that, in Triple-A, you're a phone call away from the top. The Blue Jays helped me a lot throughout all of this."

Tellez finished the 2017 season hitting .222/.295/.333 with just six home runs and 56 RBIs in 122 games for Triple-A Buffalo. That marked a big dropoff from the year before, when Tellez hit .297/.387/.530 and was generally considered Toronto's first baseman of the future. He's expected to be back in Buffalo at the start of the year and will need a strong showing to re-establish himself as a future core piece.

The path to the big leagues is not as clear for Tellez as it once was. Justin Smoak is coming off a breakout season at the big league level and has two years of control remaining on his contract. That does not bode well for Tellez, but the 22-year-old has more pressing issues to take care of first. Tellez needs to rediscover the power stroke that landed him on MLB Pipeline's list of top Toronto prospects -- he's ranked No. 12 -- and the good news is he can finally do it with a clear head.

"I'd say it affected the way I play," Tellez conceded. "Not the way I handled myself on the field, but I kind of let it get to me subconsciously, I think.

"I tried to go to the field every day, same guy day in and day out, smile on my face. Respect for the game, respect for the staff. They were also there to help me through my tough situation. I couldn't be more grateful to the Blue Jays for what they meant for me and what they helped me with. Just talking to me, making sure everything was OK and offering any help that I needed."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Rowdy Tellez