SARASOTA, Fla. -- As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities this month, we will be sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Blue Jays camp, it was No. 8 prospect Rowdy Tellez. The Blue Jays' inability to sign 2013 first-rounder
SARASOTA, Fla. -- As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities this month, we will be sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Blue Jays camp, it was No. 8 prospect Rowdy Tellez.
The Blue Jays' inability to sign 2013 first-rounder Phil Bickford ultimately allowed the club to land Tellez, who received an $850,000 bonus as a 30th-round pick. He established himself as one of the best all-around hitters in Toronto's system in 2015 and was having a strong second half in the Class A Advanced Florida State League when a broken hamate in his hand ended his season in August. He made up for some of the lost time with an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League, and received his first official invitation to Major League camp this spring.
MLBPipeline.com: As a 30th-round Draft pick out of high school, you chose to begin your professional career rather than honor your commitment to USC. What was that decision-making process like?
Tellez: If you had the choice to go to college or turn pro, and your dream is to be a professional baseball player, which one would you pick? I know that I would have had three of the greatest years of my life at USC, but my thought was why take a longer path to get there when I can take a short one? School would have been great, and I'm a good student, but I just wanted to play ball. My mindset was that if I have success and I play like I'm capable of, I could potentially reach the big leagues before I'd have finished college. I know I made the right decision and I'm very happy. This is a great organization to be playing for.
MLBPipeline.com: How do you feel your time in last year's Arizona Fall League has prepared you for spring training?
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Tellez: The AFL was probably the best experience of my baseball career. Not only did I get to play with and against some great players, but I just had a blast out there. It was a lot of fun, and having some success definitely made it better. It definitely gave me an idea of what to expect this year in camp, especially on the big league side.
MLBPipeline.com: Since you brought it up, what was your experience like in big league camp this spring?
Tellez: I can't thank the Blue Jays enough for that opportunity. I wasn't worried about playing time there; I just wanted to learn as much as I can from guys at the highest level. I learned from guys like Troy Tulowitzki how to prepare every day, and from Justin Smoak how to trust my hands at first base and use my feet to create good groundballs at first base. I got to play and hang out with these guys, and they're no different from any of us. It was just an all-around great experience.
MLBPipeline.com: As an Elk Grove (Calif.) High product, do you still stay in touch with fellow alums Dom Nunez (Rockies No. 9), Derek Hill (Tigers No. 3) and J.D. Davis (Astros No. 12)?
Tellez: Yeah, Dom and I talk a little bit, but we live farther apart now and don't work out together or see each other as much as we used to. I talk to Derek a lot still, and J.D. and I are still buddies -- it was great getting to see him out in the AFL last year. Blue Jays announcer Buck Martinez also went there, and so did Scott Boras.
MLBPipeline.com: Your bond with Dom Smith has been well documented. Between the two of you, who is going to hit more homers in 2016? Who will hit more doubles?
Tellez: Me and me, without a doubt. If you happen to interview Dom, please tell him I said that. But really, Dom is just a great hitter. He rakes. We've always competed against each other -- we always have and always will -- and hopefully we get to do that this year in Double-A.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.